Report Highlights Health Risk Scores for Virginia’s Most Toxic Communities

From the VA Sierra Club:

Report Highlights Health Risk Scores for Virginia’s Most Toxic Communities

Virginia is one of the most toxic states in the nation, with the majority of health risks concentrated in communities of color

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club today released a report titled Airborne Toxins and Health Risks in Virginia. The report analyzes data from the 2019 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) of the Environmental Protection Agency and its Risk Screening Environmental Indicator (RSEI) Scores. RSEI scores are determined by the EPA and reflect the potential risk of chronic disease resulting from toxic exposure.

With a total RSEI score of 10,993,849, Virginia ranks as the 8th most toxic state in the nation. Because RSEI scores are a measure of comparison, Virginia’s toxic risk is more than 33,000 times greater than the lowest RSEI-rated state (Vermont, with a score of 333). No RSEI score was included in the report released by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, demonstrating a failure to educate the public about environmental health risks from toxic sources .

“This report shows that our state leaders and agencies continue to let polluters off the hook at the expense of public health,” said Sierra Club Virginia Chapter director Kate West. “People have a right to know if polluting businesses in their community could make them sick. Emissions from these toxic facilities pose serious health risks that can and must be reduced.

The report finds that the vast majority of facilities most at risk are located in communities populated predominantly by people of colour, underscoring the need to further address environmental racism in the Commonwealth.

“The disproportionate impacts highlighted in our report are frustrating and unsurprising,” said Gustavo Angeles, Environmental Justice Coordinator for the Virginia Chapter. “There is a long history of sacrificing communities of color for the benefit of polluters, and the legacy of racist policies like redlining continues to foster a concentration of pollution experienced by people of color.”

The report provides rankings and profiles of the top 10 postcodes with the highest disease risk as well as the highest potential cancer risk. In terms of the highest potential health risks, Richmond, Radford and Hopewell, Arlington and Newport News rank in the top five, with the greater Richmond area accounting for more than 3,000,000 of Virginia’s total score. Major localities with the highest cancer risk score facilities include Richmond, Hopewell, Arlington and Newport News.

“Exposure to toxins in the environment can cause cancer. Many of them are known carcinogens,” said Dr. Joan Schiller, oncologist and member of Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action. “Our leaders cannot commit to protecting our health if they continue to fail to protect our environment.”

The full report is available at A list of major risk rating facilities can be found on page 21. A page outlining the report’s macro information can be found at


About the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club: The Virginia Chapter is a grassroots organization that advocates for a Virginia where everyone can enjoy our natural treasures, access clean air and water, and thrive in a healthy community. With more than 20,000 members, we coordinate actions to promote climate solutions and oppose projects and policies that put the interests of polluting companies above the needs of communities. The Virginia chapter is part of the National Sierra Club, the largest and most influential local environmental organization in the country. For more information, visit

Comments are closed.