In Almost Every State, People Of Color Breathe Dirtier Air Than Whites

The U.S.’s racial inequality isn’t found just in poverty rates, treatment from the justice system and education levels, but also the very air that we breathe. A newly released study from the EPA confirms that people of color in this country are exposed to significantly more air pollution than white Americans.

Scientists from the National Center for Environmental Assessment, a subdivision of the EPA, found that in 46 out of 50 states, non-white Americans are suffering from greater levels of pollution than the Caucasians in their states.

The worst offenders are Indiana and Alabama, two states where non-white people inhale over double the amount of harmful pollution compared to their white counterparts. The only states that bucked this trend and had pollution spread in a more equitable manner, if you will, are Virginia, Maryland, New Mexico and North Dakota.

The big takeaways from the study are that African Americans are exposed to 1.5 times the amount of harmful air pollutants that whites are, while Latinos are exposed to 1.2 times more than whites.

Though a lot of that discrepancy can be chalked up to corporations that pollute setting up shop in communities where blacks and Latinos live, the research concluded that the factories in minority communities also just pollute more than those in white areas.

Specifically, researchers measured levels of PM2.5, which is produced from car emissions and machinery. However, they also crunched numbers for other known pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and lead and found a similar rate of disparity with these toxins as well.

This discrepancy is important because breathing in bad air isn’t just unpleasant – it coincides with a lot of long-term health consequences. People who breathe in highly polluted air are more likely to have heart disease, lung disease and are generally more likely to die younger.

By the researchers’ own admission, it’s not the first time scientists have looked at racial disparity in air quality in the United States. University of Michigan Professor Paul Mohai is unaffiliated with the study, but looked over the research before speaking to BuzzFeed. He saw the work as “very valuable” because most research in this area does not attempt to compare the level of inequality through ratios.

Moreover, the EPA didn’t just look at certain urban areas, they examined sites all over the country and found the phenomenon to be common in just about every state. Surely, that’s not a coincidence.

It’s also important to have the government’s own research on this subject since critics and lobbyists have in the past been quick to dismiss this subject. For example, the American Petroleum Institute tried to blame the health effects on black Americans in polluted areas on “genetics” and improper health care rather than taking any responsibility.

Considering that the EPA Chief Scott Pruitt has said he doesn’t want science to dictate political policy, it’s hard to imagine the Trump administration doing anything with this information, but at least now the American people are aware of the problem and we can advocate for better air quality for people of all ethnicities under better leadership.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Marie W
Marie W3 months ago


Jan S
Past Member 9 months ago

thank you

Paulo R
Paulo R9 months ago


Paulo R
Paulo R9 months ago


Roxana Saez
Roxana S9 months ago


Ruth S
Ruth S9 months ago


Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O9 months ago

Yes, we all breath the same air all around the planet...BUT some areas are far more polluted than others and those people living in the poorer cheaper areas are targeted with higher pollution. It is the same the world over no matter the nationality, it is more to do with finances and cheap land. Hence the companies setting up on this area is likewise due to finances. Target these companies to stop dangerous polluting will go a long way to correcting this problem. Also planting many trees and greening the suburbs adding pride to the areas will cause land prices to rise and it wont be a cheap dump area but a lovely striving area with prestige, then the companies not conforming will have to get out.

Louise R
Louise R9 months ago

thanks for this

Lenore K
Lenore K9 months ago

not good

Cathy B
Cathy B9 months ago

Thank you for sharing.