The Center for Health, Environment & Justice is a national, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that provides organizing and technical assistance to grassroots community groups in the environmental health and justice movement. The Center was founded in 1981 by Lois Gibbs, who helped win the relocation of over 900 families from their neighborhood which was contaminated by chemicals leaking from the Love Canal landfill in Niagara Falls, NY. Through this effort, Gibbs and her neighbors woke up the nation to recognize the link between people’s exposures to dangerous chemicals in their community and serious public health impacts.
CHEJ works with the environmental health and justice movement to eliminate harmful toxic exposures. We help people build democratic, community-based organizations to address public health and environmental threats from chemical hazards. This movement organizes to eliminate harmful toxic exposures in communities impacted by hazardous waste sites, chemical plants, and other polluting industries, as well as, eliminate unsafe chemicals in products used in homes, schools and institutions.
The best way to solve local environmental injustices is from the bottom up, when the people directly affected speak for themselves and have an equal role in all decisions that affect their lives. CHEJ mentors and empowers community-based groups to become effective in achieving their goals and build a national environmental health and justice movement where every community is safe to live, work, pray and play without toxic hazards.
CHEJ was instrumental in establishing key national policies critical to protecting communities, such as the Federal Superfund law, Right-to-Know law, national Safe School Siting Guidelines and others. CHEJ has organized many successful grassroots consumer campaigns convincing corporations, like Walmart and Target, to eliminate toxic materials in their products, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and Bisphenol A (BPA), and institutions, such as hospitals, to phase out hazardous technologies, like medical waste incinerators. By pioneering the effort to protect communities from chemical hazards, CHEJ has become the preeminent national leader organizing effective coalitions of grassroots groups working to prevent harm from toxic chemical threats.
CHEJ works as a convener bringing together organizations and people from different walks of life like parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, students, blue-collar workers and faith-based leaders. CHEJ works with local, state, regional and national groups to create powerful and diverse collaborative campaigns that promote green purchasing, sustainable economic development, safe school environments, environmental health reforms, pollution prevention and work to phase out unsafe chemicals in consumer products.
CHEJ advocates responsible corporate behavior and governmental reforms to overhaul America’s outdated, flawed chemical regulatory policies and transition to a preventative, health-protective approach. Babies in the United States are born “pre-polluted” with dangerous chemicals like dioxins and the incidence of chronic diseases linked to chemical exposures is growing at an alarming pace. The fundamental problem is that American environmental policies are based on the highest “acceptable” amount of toxic exposure, instead of avoiding harm from toxic chemicals. America needs to transform its chemical regulatory framework to a precautionary approach based on prevention. Communities would no longer be required to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that their health is threatened by a toxic exposure before action is taken and products would not be made out of toxic substances when safer materials are available.