Environmental justice; COVID-19; health disparities; environmental contamination


Community Health | Environmental Health | Environmental Public Health | Immune System Diseases | Inequality and Stratification | Place and Environment | Respiratory Tract Diseases | Toxicology | Virus Diseases


COVID-19 has exacted a severe toll on the United States population’s physical and mental health and its effects have been felt most severely among people of color and low socioeconomic status. Using illustrative case studies, this commentary argues that in addition to COVID-19 health disparities created by psychosocial stressors such as the inability to socially distance and access quality healthcare, environmental justice communities have the additional burden of disproportionate exposure to toxic contaminants that contribute to their higher risk of COVID-19. Environmental contaminants including heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants found contaminating their nearby environments can alter the immune response, produce an inflammatory response, and induce systemic adverse health effects that, alongside social stressors, create the “perfect storm” in environmental justice communities for COVID-19.