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Abstract

Hard economic times and social conditions are driving a reordering of environmental protection priorities that threatens to sacrifice the most vulnerable groups. Environmental regulatory agencies acknowledge that vulnerable populations face the greatest risk of harm from environmental insult and that these groups are not adequately protected. Although a risk-based prioritization of resources benefits the greatest number of people, such allocation would disadvantage minority communities, which contain disproportionate numbers of sensitive subgroups. Our regulatory bodies must therefore develop new strategies to adequately protect sensitive subgroups identified in minority communities. Part II of this Article looks at some of the considerations that influence the health protection priorities and resource allocations that environmental regulatory agencies make. Part III examines the importance of variation in susceptibility to environmental insult and how minorities, women, and the young are particularly affected. Part IV discusses the economic rationale and available mechanisms for protecting vulnerable subgroups.

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