People of Color Hardest Hit by Air Pollution From Nearly All Sources


A study finds that nearly all major emissions categories contribute to the systemic air pollution exposure disparity experienced by people of color.

Various studies show that people of color are disproportionately exposed to air pollution in the United States. However, it was unclear whether this unequal exposure is due mainly to a few types of emission sources or whether the causes are more systemic. A new study that models peoples’ exposure to air pollution – resolved by race-ethnicity and income level – shows that exposure disparities among people of color and white people are driven by nearly all, rather than only a few, emission source types.

The study led by University of Illinois Urbana Champaign civil and environmental engineering professor Christopher Tessum is published in the journal Science Advances.

“Community organizations have been experiencing and advocating against environmental injustice for decades,” Tessum said. “Our study contributes to an already extensive body of evidence with the new finding that there is no single air pollution source, or a small number of sources, that account for this disparity. Instead, the disparity is caused by almost all of the sources.”

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