Study Shows Higher Level of Pollution Affects Certain Group of People in US

According to new research from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, certain group of people in the United States – Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Latinos, and low-income populations – are more likely to be exposed to life-threatening fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) than other groups.

Air pollution

(Photo : Getty Images)

Exposure to PM2.5 Across United States 

Using data on fine particulate pollution collected across the country over the course of 17 years, the study authors worked with the Environmental Systems Research Institute to develop a new platform and create unique visualizations that highlight the stark differences in air pollution exposure across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups in the United States. 

The study was published in the journal Nature on January 12, 2022. 

Francesca Dominici, a Harvard Chan School professor and senior author of the study said, their study, which highlights the relative disparities in exposure to PM2.5, is particularly timely given current crises the country is facing, such as a reckoning with racism and disparities in COVID-19 outcomes.

Premature death rates from exposure to PM2.5 air pollution are higher in racial and ethnic minorities and low-income groups in the United States, according to previous research. Air pollution exposure among these categories differs widely, as has been demonstrated. 

An additional focus of the new research was on racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in exposure.

Using data from the American Community Survey and the Census Bureau, researchers were able to estimate PM2.5 levels across the United States using machine learning models based on satellite data and atmospheric chemistry models.The 32,000 zip code tabulation areas of the United States were examined in this study. 

Also Read: Scientists Claim that Prolonged Exposure to Air Pollution May Worsen Depression

Federal Air Pollution Standards

Accordig to, the yearly maximum recommended exposure to PM2.5 is 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air under current federal air pollution standards. 

The average concentration of PM2.5 in the United States decreased from 12.6 g/m3 to 7.5 g/m3 between 2000 and 2016, a 40.4 percent decrease.

Pollution levels above 12 micrograms per cubic meter (PM2.5) decreased from 57.3 percent of the population in 2000 to 4.5 percent in 2016. 

However, despite decreasing levels of PM2.5 over time, disparities in exposure persisted, according to the findings.

Air pollution

(Photo : Getty Images)

Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Exposure to PM2.5 

Those who studied this found that areas of the United States with a higher concentration of whites and Native Americans were exposed to lower average PM2.5 levels than areas with a higher concentration of blacks, Asians, and Hispanics. 

The average PM2.5 concentration for the Black population in 2016 was 13.7% higher than the white population and 36.3% higher than the Native American population.

For ZCTAs where more than 85% of the population is Black, a sharp rise was seen in pollution levels in PM2.5 concentrations, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. 

From 2004 to 2016, lower-income areas of the US had higher average PM2.5 levels than higher-income ones, according to the study’s findings. According to the study, racial/ethnic disparities in exposure to PM2.5 in relation to safety standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization have been increasing over time. 

Related Article: Air Pollution Causes 7 Million Deaths Yearly, Prompting WHO to Strengthen Guidelines

For more news, updates about air pollution and similar topics don’t forget to follow Nature World News!

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