My sophomore year of college I took a service class called Management & Organization. A service class meant that there would be community service that would go along with what was being learned. We were split into three or four major groups and each group was assigned a unique opportunity to work with the community. One group had to plan a concert for students in a low-income school in New Haven, while another group had to plan a party for another classroom of students at the same school.
My group had to find ways to help the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental and Economic Justice bring awareness about the ever-going health and environmental injustices in low-income areas. We learned about mold, carbon monoxide poisoning, and lead poisoning which is present in many buildings. We learned how renters tend to miss these variables when signing a contract, partly because tenants neglect to check. We all made pamphlets to cover topics ranging from these to the rights renters have and the actions they should take before signing a contract with a tenant.
Through this project, I learned that people living in poverty are subjected to terrible living conditions which are not only harmful to the people, but to the surrounding community, as well. Unfortunately, people living in this condition can’t afford professional cleanings of the harmful chemicals and toxins that can be found throughout homes and apartments. It is people living in poverty who will endure long term side effects.
I learned that mold can cause rashes, nausea, asthma, and hemorrhaging. What’s shocking is there is no federal law that sets limits on the amount of mold that can grow in residential buildings. Only a few states have laws that do limit the growth of mold. Landlords can be held responsible for not removing mold prior to renting out property and are expected to take care of any leaking pipes, roofs, and windows. Lead is a toxic metal and is harmful to have a build-up of. Lead paint hasn’t been available since 1978 but it can be found in soil, especially after a house has been demolished. The only way to get rid of lead is to remove the dirt since lead doesn’t decay or dissolve. Often times, babies of low-income families living in a rented home will consume lead, which leads to serious health problems.
Check out the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental and Economic Justice if you live in Connecticut! The group is always looking for help and implores to spread awareness of the subject that affects many.
By Yara Obeid