How Air Pollution Affects African Americans
According to USA Today article on March 11, 2019, “Even though minorities are contributing less to the overall problem of air pollution, they are affected by it more,”. What is especially surprising is just how large pollution inequity is and has been for well over a decade. The type of pollution analyzed in the study is known as “PM 2.5” – tiny grains of “particulate matter” that are especially dangerous to human health because they can get deep into our lungs. Those particles, at 2.5 micrometers far smaller than the width of a human hair, are produced by car tailpipes, power plant smokestacks and burning materials. Blacks are exposed to about 56 percent more pollution than is caused by their consumption. The formula scientists used in their study is driven by disparities in the amount of goods and services that groups consume and in the exposure to the resulting pollution. On average, whites tend to consume more than minorities. It’s because of wealth,” Hill said. For example, the scientists found that whites spend more money on pollution-intensive goods and services than do blacks and Hispanics, which means they generate more pollution than the other groups do. Other experts agreed with the research: “These findings confirm what most grassroots environmental justice leaders have known for decades, ‘whites are dumping their pollution on poor people and people of color,’” said Texas Southern University public affairs professor Robert Bullard, who was not part of the research. Bullard, often called the father of environmental justice, is African-American. Researchers say their pollution inequity formula could be used on other types of environmental burdens.
American Lung Association says many studies have explored the differences in harm from air pollution to racial or ethnic groups and people who are in a low socioeconomic position, have less education, or live nearer to major sources of pollution,1 including a workshop the American Lung Association held in 2001 that focused on urban air pollution and health inequities.2 The most recent EPA review of the research on the health effects of particle pollution concluded that nonwhite populations, especially blacks, faced higher risk from particle pollution.
Studies have looked at the mortality in the Medicaid population and found that those who live in predominately black or African American communities suffered greater risk of premature death from particle pollution than those who live in communities that are predominately white.4 Another large study found that Hispanics and Asians, but especially blacks, had a higher risk of premature death from particle pollution than whites did. This study found that income did not drive the differences. Higher-income blacks who had higher income than many whites still faced greater risk than those whites, suggesting that the impact of other factors such as chronic stress as a result of discrimination may be playing a role.5 Other researchers have found greater risk for African Americans from hazardous air pollutants, including those pollutants that also come from traffic sources.6 Due to decades of residential segregation, African Americans tend to live where there is greater exposure to air pollution.
Science Daily posted an article from Ohio State University that stated a variety of detailed data sources to examine air pollution and the demographics of the people who lived in 1-kilometer-square areas throughout a six-state region from 1995 through 1998. These are the four years after President Bill Clinton’s 1994 executive order that focused attention on the environmental and health effects of federal actions on minority and low-income populations. The act’s goal was “achieving environmental protection for all communities”.