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Environmental Racism is an Every Day Occurrence


Just a note reminding us of something that we should know and act upon and almost never do–that people of color are exposed to pollution rates far greater than whites. Some of this is that polluting industries directly target communities of color for their facilitates because they know the chances of successful fights against it are less likely. Some of it is that people who can escape living near pollution do and those who can’t are far more likely to be people of color. This is because the United States is a racist nation. We need to be reminded of this constantly in order to do anything about it.

A new study out of the University of Washington has found that exposure to air pollution is greater among communities of color. In response, communities of color puts down their inhalers and said, “No shit.”

Published this week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the study looked specifically at nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant primarily released by automobiles and power plants. Researchers found that between 2000 and 2010, while air in the US generally got cleaner, people of color were still exposed to nearly 40 percent more pollution than white populations.

The study didn’t look into the reasons that communities of color are more polluted, but prior research—and looking around—tells us that non-white communities are disproportionately located near major roads and heavy industries, where nitrogen dioxide pollution tends to be higher.

Nitrogen dioxide has been linked to health problems like asthma and heart diseases, which people of color also disproportionately suffer from.

The study confirms what people of color have been saying for a long time. “I’m not surprised with the study’s findings but I do wonder about the value of white researchers rehashing the same investigation time and time again, each time concluding what people of color already know,” says Aura Bogado, a journalist who writes about environmental justice. “Moving forward, perhaps the academic community could instead focus on equitable policies that center the people who are most affected by poor air quality.”

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