A new study published this week shows that both race and class are significant indicators of how much toxic air pollution individuals face in the United States with minorities receiving nearly 40% more exposure to deadly airborne pollutants than whites.
The study looked closely at the rates of pollution exposure by race, income, education and other key demographics to establish the key predictors of how specific populations are impacted across the country, state by state.
Specifically looking at levels of outdoor nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a byproduct found in vehicle exhaust and fossil fuel-fired power plants, the study—titled “National Patterns in Environmental Injustice and Inequality”—found that people of color are exposed to 38 percent more of the deadly chemical which experts say can be a key driver of heart disease and other health problems.
The health impacts from the difference in levels between whites and nonwhites found in the study are substantial. For example, researchers estimate that if nonwhites breathed the lower NO2 levels experienced by whites, it would prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease alone among nonwhites each year.
Though it has been well-documented that low-income families and minorities have long been forced to live in undesirable neighborhoods near coal plants or high-traffic roadways, this study is being called “ground-breaking” for taking a national look at the issue and using advanced satellite technology to compare specific geographic areas with advanced pollution data.