Study: Blacks exposure to pollution greater than whites

By New American Media

Communities of color across the United States are exposed to disproportionately high rates of pollution, according to engineering and environmental researchers at the University of Minnesota.

Researchers looked at the variations in pollution exposure across race, income, education attainment and other categories, and found race to be the dominant determining factor.

The study, titled National patterns in environmental injustice and inequality: Outdoor NO2 air pollution in the United States, found that Black people and other minorities breathe in air with 38 percent more noxious nitrogen dioxide than whites because of their close proximity to power plants and the inhalation of vehicle exhaust.

Lower-income Americans and those with lower education attainment also were exposed at higher rates than their richer and more educated counterparts, respectively.

While other studies have examined disparities in exposures to environmental risks, including air pollution, at a city, state and regional level, the Minnesota researchers say their study is the first to use satellite observations, measurements by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and maps of land uses to explore disparities in exposure to air pollution nationwide.

Nitrogen dioxide is one of the toxic pollutants monitored and regulated by EPA and causes respiratory ailments. Thus, the health implications of the disparities in exposure found in the UM study could be substantial, researchers claimed. For example, the study estimates that if non-whites breathed the lower nitrogen dioxide levels experienced by whites, it would prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease alone among minorities each year.

Researchers believe the study could be a resource for monitoring and evaluating other areas of environmental disparity.

“National patterns in environmental injustice and inequality” was published in the April 15 issue of PLOS ONE, a leading peer-reviewed scientific journal.