The Silicon Valley Environmental Health and Justice Project represents a partnership between community organizations, research scientists and health care providers to enable low income people of color in Santa Clara County, California to identify, reduce and prevent exposure to hazardous chemicals where they live, work and play. The partnership consists of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Santa Clara Center for Occupational Safety and Health, UC-Berkeley School of Public Health and Santa Clara County Public Health Department. Silicon Valley, birthplace to the high tech electronics industry, has more Superfund toxic cleanup sites than any US county. Health studies focused on the electronics industry, especially semiconductor chip manufacturing, have linked drinking water contamination to birth defects and miscarriages, and occupational exposures to higher rates of systemic illnesses and miscarriages. Toxic air pollution and toxic gas usage are concerns. Of the 1.6 million people who live in Santa Clara County, 45 percent are people of color and more than 56 percent under the age of fifteen are children of color. People of color, predominantly Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders, include many recent immigrants, suffer poorer health than whites, have less health insurance coverage, work in the most hazardous jobs and live in the most polluted neighborhoods of Silicon Valley. The long term goals of the Project are to empower affected community residents and workers, improve environmental and occupational health and promote pollution prevention and clean production in electronics manufacturing and related service industries.
The specific aims are to involve community members and workers in assessing environmental and occupational health hazards and setting the research agenda; to conduct educational outreach, training and communications with residents, workers and health care providers; to pilot test integrated exposure assessment strategies and to build the partnership and sustain it for the long term. By raising individual consciousness and developing new leadership around environmental justice issues, the Project will help build community organization and prevention capacity to improve public health in Silicon Valley.