California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen) 2.0

Feb 18, 2014 (Last modified May 4, 2015)
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Screening methodology and spatial dataset to identify CA communities disproportionately burdened by environmental pollution

Many Californians live in the midst of multiple sources of pollution. Physical, biological and chemical pollutants in the environment can have harmful effects, immediate and delayed as well as direct and indirect, on the ecosystem and communities. Certain people and communities, such as children, pregnant women, the elderly, those with impaired physiological or genetic conditions, and those with high poverty rates are more vulnerable to the direct effects of environmental pollution than others.

CalEnviroScreen is a screening methodology and spatial dataset that can be used to help identify California communities that are disproportionately burdened by environmental pollution. The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) developed the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen) to facilitate the evaluation of multiple pollutants and stressors in communities.

CalEnviroScreen is a placed- based model which provides information for the entire State of California on a geographic basis. The model includes two components which represent pollution burden – exposures and environmental effects – and two components representing population characteristics – sensitive populations (e.g., in terms of health status and age) and socioeconomic factors (e.g., poverty, educational attainment, linguistic isolation, and race and ethnicity).

The tool identifies the areas of the state that face multiple pollution burdens so programs and funding can be appropriately targeted toward improving the environmental health and economic vitality of the most impacted communities. The tool will be used to help implement a state law (SB 535) that requires that 25 percent of the proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions be invested in projects that benefit disadvantaged communities. The law requires the California Environmental Protection Agency to identify those communities.

CalEnviroScreen 2.0 is the latest iteration of the CalEnviroScreen tool. Reflecting broad public input, CalEnviroScreen 2.0 provides more detail than previous versions (1.0 and 1.1) of the statewide tool and dataset. Scores have been created for each of the state’s 8,000 census tracts and new indicators have been added for drinking water contaminants and unemployment rates. CalEnviroScreen 2.0 uses the same methodology as Version 1.1 except that the two indicators for drinking water and unemployment have been added, and the tool looks at pollution burdens and vulnerabilities in census tracts rather than ZIP codes.

The model assigns scores for each of the indicators in a given geographic area and uses a scoring system to weight and sum each set of indicators within pollution burden and population characteristics components. After the components are scored, the scores are combined to calculate the overall CalEnviroScreen Score. The higher the score, the higher the expected impacts of environmental pollution. CalEnviroScreen assesses environmental factors and effects on a regional or community-wide basis and cannot be used in lieu of performing an analysis of the potentially significant impacts of any specific project. In addition, the tool’s output should not be used as a focused risk assessment of a given community or site. It cannot predict or quantify specific health risks or effects associated with cumulative exposures identified for a given community or individual.

Cal/EPA first released version 1.0 and 1.1 for public review and comment on July 2012. After the first draft was released, CAL/EPA held a series of 12 public workshops in 7 regions throughout the state of California to receive questions and comments which led to another release of the CalEnviroScreen 1.0 and 1.1 in January 2013. Data from version 1.0 can be accessed here: http://databasin.org/galleries/767ca7a5f74d40819e37783ae5c50b25

CalEnviroScreen 2.0 is the latest iteration of the CalEnviroScreen tool. In October 2014, a minor correction was performed to the August 2014 release to update data in several San Diego and Imperial County communities located on the Mexican border. CalEnviroScreen 2.0 uses the same methodology as Version 1.1 except that the two indicators for drinking water and unemployment have been added, and the tool looks at pollution burdens and vulnerabilities in census tracts rather than ZIP codes. The two new indicators incorporate potential burdens to communities posed by contaminants in drinking water and potential social stressors relating to unemployment. The use of census tracts as the geographic scale may allow for a more precise screening of pollution burdens and vulnerabilities in communities. While race and ethnicity will not be used in compiling a score using CalEnviroScreen, an analysis that provides information on the racial and ethnic composition of communities throughout the state as it relates to CalEnviroScreen scores is being released separately. This information will help us to better understand the correlation between race/ethnicity and the pollution burdens facing communities in California. Cal EPA and OEHHA are committed to updating and expanding this section as new versions of the tool are released.

More information on CalEnviroScreen 2.0 can be found here: http://oehha.ca.gov/ej/ces2.html

Citation
Tosha Comendant. 2014. California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen) 2.0. In: Data Basin. [First published in Data Basin on Feb 18, 2014; Last Modified on May 4, 2015; Retrieved on Sep 22, 2020] <https://databasin.org/articles/229be67e2c9a4653aa0e6c9b8bcb980d>

About the Author

Tosha Comendant
Senior Conservation Scientist with Conservation Biology Institute

Senior Scientist at Conservation Biology Institute working on the conversion of scientific knowledge into conservation practice. Team lead for Conservation Planning and Management.I am one of the creators of Data Basin, a science-based mapping and analysis platform that supports education, research,...