NAACP Report: Real Causes of Health Disparities in the Black Community

NAACP Report: Real Causes of Health Disparities in the Black Community

by November 20, 2017

Uni Blake (Scientific Adviser, American Petroleum Institute)

The health of African American communities is a genuine cause for concern in our country, but attacking the natural gas and oil industry is the wrong approach and detracts from the real work that should be done to reduce disparately high rates of disease among African Americans. Let’s be clear—the natural gas and oil industry is:

  • Committed to the health and safety of the communities where it operates and to its workers.
  • Leading the way on reducing U.S. greenhouse gas and other air emissions.
  • Supporting millions of well-paying jobs—one of the most important factors in the well-being of Americans.

Recently, I read a NAACP paper that accused the natural gas and oil industry of emissions that disproportionately burden African American communities. As a scientist, my overall observation is that the paper fails to demonstrate a causal relationship between natural gas activity and the health disparities, reported or predicted, within the African American community.

Rather, scholarly research attributes those health disparities to other factors that have nothing to do with natural gas and oil operations—such as genetics, indoor allergens and unequal access to preventative care. The objective should be to address the underlying socio-economic factors that contribute to the disparities, and one of the best vehicles is via the good jobs the natural gas and oil industry supports.

More specifically, the paper misleads on the information associated with asthma and cancer prevalence by conflating industry-associated emissions, hazards and risks. When we review health data from the states where energy development is occurring, we see a different outcome. For example, the latest Pennsylvania Department of Health data shows asthma hospitalizations among African Americans have decreased significantly at a time of increased natural gas production in the state.

Let’s look at some facts:

In short, the natural gas and oil industry demonstrates its commitment, every day, to ensuring the protection of human health, safety and the environment for all Americans while providing millions of American families the benefits of affordable, reliable energy.

Our industry is a leader in reducing emissions and is committed to continuing that progress in the future through the use of data, new technologies and equipment—each reflecting our companies’ desire to strengthen the communities where they operate.

Uni Blake is a scientific adviser in regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute. As a toxicologist her focus includes exposure and risk assessments as they relate to environmental and public health. She lives in the Northern Neck of Virginia with her husband and children, where she enjoys working in the yard and taking care of her flower and vegetable gardens.

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