Air Pollution Exposure Greater for Minorities

A new report titled National Patterns in Environmental Injustice and Inequality, indicates a disparity in exposure to air pollution, specifically nitrous oxide exposure, among nonwhites compared to whites.  This disparity is greater between nonwhites and whites than it is between people from contrasting economic backgrounds.  Youth and elderly nonwhites are particularly at risk.  Key findings from the report are as follows:

  • Urban outdoor air pollution is one of the leading causes of death in nations with stronger economies
  • Concentrations of nitrous oxide are greater in 87.5% of nonwhite groups studied than groups of whites studied for this report
  • With intervention, about 7,000 annual deaths related to nitrous oxide induced heart disease could be reduce
  • For comparison, an intervention with a similar benefit would be 3.2 million fewer adults (age 30–44) beginning smoking

Authors of the article say disparity in nitrous oxide exposures among minorities is a public health concern and it is a matter of environmental injustice that requires attention.

Table 2: Comparisons between population-weighted mean NO2 concentrations for specific populations

Table 2 Comparisons between population-weighted mean NO2 concentrations for specific populations.

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School