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Study: People of color breathe air that is 38 percent more polluted than white people’s

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A study released by the University of Minnesota this week indicated that people of color are exposed to air that is 38 percent more polluted than the air breathed by white people.

In an interview with The Minnesota Post, the study’s lead researcher, Julian Marshall, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota, said that “the main [factors in how polluted the air breathed in was] are race and income, and they both matter. In our findings, however, race matters more than income.”

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When Marshall compared the exposure gap between high-income Hispanics and low-income whites, for example, the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations were still higher among high-income Hispanics.

“We were quite surprised to find such a large disparity between whites and nonwhites related to air pollution,” Marshall told The Minnesota Post. “Especially the fact that this difference is throughout the U.S., even in cities and states in the Midwest.”

Across the country, the study found, people of color are exposed to 38 percent more NO2, which comes from vehicle exhaust and power plants, and which has also been linked to an increase in asthma and heart disease. The Environmental Protection Agency considers NO2 concentration one of the most significant threats to air quality, and monitors it alongside other pollutants, such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and lead.

According to Marshall in the article, “the researchers studied NO2 levels in urban areas across the country and compared specific areas within the cities based on populations defined in the U.S. Census as ‘nonwhite’ or ‘white.'”

“The health impacts from the difference in levels between whites and nonwhites found in the study are substantial,” Marshall continued. “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.”

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[“Odd” by Moon Lee on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed]


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