Ethnic minority and low-income communities exposed to higher levels of air pollution, US study finds

Lead author says study shows importance of targeted strategies to reduce pollution

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 12 January 2022 16:09
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<p>Vehicle exhausts emit PM2.5 into the air</p>

Vehicle exhausts emit PM2.5 into the air

Ethnic minority and and low-income communities are exposed to higher levels of air pollution compared to others in the US, according to a new study.

These groups lived in areas with greater levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air, the researchers found.

Similar trends have been idenfitied in London, according to a separate study published at the end of last year.

The US study - published in journal Nature - found Black, Asian, Hispanic and Latino people were exposed to higher levels of the air pollutant PM2.5.

Areas were white and Native American populations were over-represented tended to have less air pollution, the researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found.

In 2016, the average PM2.5 concentration that Black people in the US were exposed to was 13.7 per cent higher than white people, and 36 per cent higher than Native Americans, the study said.

The researchers also found higher levels of PM2.5 - which can come from vehicle exhausts and burning fuel - in areas with more lower income groups compared to higher ones.

Abdulrahman Jbaily, the study’s lead author, said the findings showed the importance of targeted strategies over air pollution to reduce overall levels and to move closer to US Environmental Protection Agency’s goal to “provide all people with the same degree of protection from environmental hazards”.

In 2019, researchers said Black and Hispanic people in the US faced a “pollution burden” as they were exposed to higher levels of PM2.5 in the air than they produced.

Earlier this year, a US study found ethnic minority communities in the US suffered higher exposure from nearly all sources of air pollution - including roads, building sites and factories.

Air pollution from PM2.5 has been estimated as causing around 1.8 million excess deaths in 2019, according to a study published last week.

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