Systemic Racism, Not Income, Drives Air Pollution Disparities

America’s racially and ethnically minoritized groups are exposed to disproportionately high levels of air pollution.
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  • Research has linked air pollution to a range of medical conditions.
  • In the United States, racially minoritized groups are exposed to more air pollution than are white Americans.
  • A new study finds for the first time that race and ethnicity are a more significant factor in exposure to air pollution than income level in the U.S.

Researchers have suggested that economic disparity is the reason America’s racially and ethnically minoritized groups are exposed to disproportionately high levels of air pollution.

A new study from researchers at the University of Washington suggests otherwise.

The study finds that, regardless of income, racially and ethnically minoritized groups are the people most exposed to pollutants across the U.S.

Studies have linked air pollution to respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, cognitive decline, and other conditions, as well as adverse birth outcomes. The Global Burden of Disease study estimates that globally, 4.5 million people died prematurely from outdoor air pollution in 2019 alone.

“Air pollution and its associated health impacts are not equitably distributed by race/ethnicity or income,” write the authors of the study. Read more.

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