Project Coordinator: Carolyn Bell

Many low-income communities and people of color suffer a disproportionate burden of environmental hazards and the various health problems associated with poor quality air, water and toxic exposure. Often, these communities are also victims of environmental racism and the discriminatory enforcement of environmental laws and regulations, resulting in high rates of disease, birth defects and sometimes early death.

CBTU is part of the growing environmental justice movement that empowers community-based organizations to identify harmful or discriminatory conditions, mobilize their constituencies, and resolve local environmental health problems. In 1998, CBTU initiated an environmental action strategy. Several CBTU chapters have formed Community Action and Response Against Toxics (CARAT) teams, which — along with other safety and environmental allies — help to educate and monitor issues such as illegal waste dumping and hauling in poor communities.

The CARAT Team Program is hugely popular with CBTU members.

  • A national CARAT Team training program has been created.
  • CBTU members can receive Emergency Response training, Train-the Trainer instruction, and Advanced Technical Skills training.
  • Community toxics conferences have been held in several cities to raise awareness.
  • The national CARAT Toxic Awareness & Training Conference draws overflow attendance at the CBTU annual national convention.


Who makes up CARAT Teams?
The teams are comprised of trade unionists, affected residents, environmental justice advocates, legislators, community leaders, scientists, and other persons interested in a collective environmental health protection effort.

What do CARAT Teams do?

  • Organize grassroots community rallies, marches, demonstrations, etc.
  • Serve as liaison between community-based minority groups and environmental advocacy organizations and agencies.
  • Assess the needs of the community and help propose solutions.
  • Refer environmental health issues to the appropriate agencies.
  • Register CARAT teams in public libraries and other
    community-based groups.
  • Provide environmental hazard information to public libraries and community-based organizations.
  • Meet regularly and submit activity reports to the CBTU leadership.

How do CARAT Teams work with other environmental justice groups?
CARAT Teams do not replace existing environmental justice activities.These teams collaborate with existing grassroots efforts to help coordinate and empower community-based organizations to raise awareness, mobilize their constituencies, and resolve environmental health problems.

How can I form a CARAT Team in my city?

  • Contact your local CBTU chapter president
  • Host a CARAT Team organizing meeting with potential stakeholders
  • Develop operational guidelines for your chapterís CARAT Team
  • Establish and prioritize local environmental health issues
  • Form a liaison with the local Emergency Planning Committee
  • Develop strategies to raise community awareness and support for your issues
  • Identify educational institutions to serve as resources for research and education

Which CBTU chapters currently host CARAT Teams?

  • Northern California
  • North Central New Jersey
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Jackson, Mississippi
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • St. Louis, Missouri


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