Even Though Whites Contribute More To Air Pollution, Blacks And Hispanics Shoulder The Burden

Written by Ann Brown
air pollution
Harlem, New York | Image: Anita Sanikop

Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to live in areas with unhealthy air. And according to a new study, this is the case even though whites contribute more to air pollution.

According to the study, “Hispanics on average breathe in 63 percent more of the pollution that leads to heart and breathing deaths than they make. For African-Americans the figure is 56 percent,” AP reported. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Even though minorities are contributing less to the overall problem of air pollution, they are affected by it more,” said study co-author Jason Hill, a biosystems engineering professor at the University of Minnesota. “Is it fair (that) I create more pollution and somebody else is disproportionately affected by it?”

“These findings confirm what most grassroots environmental justice leaders have known for decades. ‘Whites are dumping their pollution on poor people and people of color’,” said Texas Southern University public affairs professor Robert Bullard, who was not part of the research. Bullard has been called the father of environmental justice.

What makes this study unique is that it looked at who sends what and compared that to the amount of air pollution created.

“This paper is exciting and really quite novel,” Anjum Hajat, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington who was not involved in the study, told NPR. “Inequity in exposure to air pollution is well documented, but this study brings in the consumption angle.”

“We wanted to take this study further by ascribing responsibility of these premature deaths to different sectors [of the economy], and ultimately to the consumers, and maybe consumers of different racial and ethnic