Welcome back to my series on environmental stewardship and women! Again, if you find something to be particularly interesting, I encourage you to explore more on your own. Ample literature of varying technical degrees (or non-technical) is available.
This topic has three broad categories that influence exposure rates—economic status, race, and job related differences. Economic status and race can probably be addressed together, because when we look at poverty levels, especially poverty levels in more toxic areas, the minority races are disproportionately represented as are women. The most visible exception to this is Love Canal, but Love Canal aligns with job related differences.
Poverty, Race and Exposure
The feminization of poverty is far too complex and long to address in this post, however, to summarize-- due to the large number of women that make up the poor population, women tend to be exposed to more toxic chemicals, because industries tend to develop where the land is least expensive, which is where the poor generally live. People who live in the area tend to live there because the cost is less.
Job Related Differences
This section is a bit of a reality check in that as much as I do not want to believe it, we know it is true. I cannot find my link right now, but it was found in a survey that women who marry add an additional seven hours of housework to their week, while men perform one hour less. Women do most housework. Women care for children. Women have higher exposure rates to chemicals in the homes, schools, playgrounds, and other social gathering areas. Yes, men are exposed to different chemicals and toxins at work, but women working outside the home tend to have lower paying jobs and labor in blue collar positions. As a result, they also suffer a higher exposure risk at work as well.
Just a little more to think about… I kind of covered occupational differences in this post, so I am skipping over that bullet and adding a little background on eco-and cultural- feminism. I am sure some are instantly turned off by the word feminism, but I encourage you to read with an open mind. Both of these are far from the radical feminist line of thinking that most people associate with all feminism!
The Body Toxic (I have not read it, but it is on my wishlist!)