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Yale researchers find environmental health disparities among LGBTQ+ populations

Yale researchers find environmental health disparities among LGBTQ+ populations

Yale researchers highlight environmental health disparities in LGBTQ+ populations

Yale School of the Environment researchers published a paper that highlighted the environmental health problems that LGBTQ+ people face.

Hamera Shabbir

12:04 a.m., February 2, 2022

Staff Reporter

Courtesy Paula Pineda

Yale School of the Environment researchers released a new paper that explores the unique environmental risks and outcomes of the LGBTQ+ population. The paper also provides recommendations for policy, research and public health. 

In a Paper digitally published in American Journal of Public HealthLast December, Professor of Environmental Health Michelle Bell (LEV 20) and Leo Goldsmith ENV20 discussed environmental health inequities within the context of the LGBTQ+ community. The paper is divided into seven sections. It discusses, among others, the role and implications of social institutions, disproportionate environmental exposure, and public health implications. The paper recognizes the mechanisms that can lead to increased environmental health risk factors in the LGBTQ+ population, and calls for more research into environmental inequities.

Bell stated that discriminatory policies that lead to poorer health outcomes for the LGBTQ+ population are targeted. Bell said that environmental justice is a central theme of my research program. We aim to explore the multiple ways people are exposed to higher health risks from environmental conditions. This project had the goal to investigate how environmental exposures might disproportionately impact the LGBTQ+ population. It also aimed to raise the issue in the scientific literature to hopefully stimulate further research and understanding. 

The paper is divided into three sections. It identifies three environmental hazards, air pollution, and environmental disasters that disproportionately affect LGBTQ+ people. These effects may manifest themselves in the rates of exposure and associated discrimination experienced by people due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. 

For example, the paper acknowledges that LGBTQ+ people may have higher second-hand smoke rates due to stress, gender-based stereotypes and minority stress. Goldsmith pointed out that more that one-third of LGBTQ+ Americans had experienced discrimination within the past year, while the number for transgender Americans is higher at more than three-fifths.

[T]Goldsmith said in an email that more research is needed on this topic. There may be links between environmental disparities, sexual and gender minority status, but we need to first address the shortage of data on health and demographics for sexual and female minorities in the country and within health systems that hinder robust research.

Bell emphasized the vulnerability of Black transgender females in particular, and stressed the importance of intersectionality when looking at research on environmental health conditions. This paper demonstrates discrimination that is influenced not only by race but also by socioeconomic status. 

Goldsmith underscored how his experiences as a low-income, queer, transgender Latino climate and health expert led him to create work that could “[validate] what LGBTQ+ communities are and have been experiencing.” During his time at Yale, Goldsmith was selected for the Environmental Fellows Program and was involved with the intersectional student interest group Environmental Justice at Yale, or EJAY, in addition to the social and advocacy group representing the LGBTQ+ community called Out in the Woods, or OITW.

Kieren Rudge ENV22, a co-lead at EJAY, is a member OITW and said that there is currently a greater emphasis on ideas and justice in environmental research.

This is a little something about it [paper]Rudge stated that there is a lot of work about justice and equity out today. It’s amazing to see science validate a lot these things that are known by stakeholders.

Yale’s Environmental Fellows Program moved to Yale in 2020.

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Hamera Shabbir is responsible for covering golf and fencing for the Science and Technology desk and the School of the Environment. Born in California’s Central Valley, she is currently a sophomore at Branford College and majoring in Political Science with an interdisciplinarity in Environmental Studies.

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