People of color in the U.S. are disproportionately exposed to particulate pollution and have been left behind by overall pollution reductions compared to white Americans, a new study published by researchers from five universities shows. The findings hold true across state lines and income levels and show how decades-old decisions to build highways and industrial facilities continue to harm Black, Latino, and Asian Americans. The sources of particulate pollution (also known as PM2.5) vary based on location, but “The deck is stacked against people of color, for almost every emission source,” Joshua Apte, one of the authors and an engineering professor at UC-Berkeley, told the Washington Post. The study’s findings are consistent with decades of research on environmental racism.
“If you go to communities of color across this country and ask them, ‘What’s the source of the environmental problems?’ they can point you to every one: the highway, the chemical plants, the refineries, the legacy pollution left over from decades ago, in the houses, in the air, in the water, in the playgrounds,” Robert Bullard, an eminent environmental justice scholar at Texas Southern University who was not involved in the study, told the New York Times. “Empirical research is now catching up with the reality: that America is segregated and so is pollution.” (Washington Post $, New York Times $)