Life is Unfair When it Comes to Clean Air


By Lamar and Ronnie Tyler

Life is not fair. Some people are born with great advantages and others are born with major disadvantages. This is a fact of life that we are faced with from birth…and one that African Americans are all too familiar with.

Being disproportionally affected by diseases, unemployment, divorce, crime, failing education systems (the list goes on and on) are facts that African Americans live with every day. And if you didn’t know it, you need to add air pollution to that list too.

The report, Air of Injustice, describes how African Americans are disproportionately affected by the air pollution from our nation’s power plants. It also describes the relationship between the poisonous toxins that these plants are emitting and the many environmental health issues that African Americans are faced with such as Asthma and infant deaths.

In the report, you find that nearly 68% of African Americans live near power plants.

“African Americans are more likely to suffer health effects from air pollution. The reason has much to do with where we live. African Americans are far more likely to live near power plants and power plant waste sites. Living near these sites increases our likelihood of exposure and health risk. Also, more than half of all African Americans live in areas with air quality that doesn’t meet federal standards.”

Coal-fired power plants emit some of the most toxic pollutants into the air, such as mercury.  These pollutants go from the air to the rivers, and eventually to the fish and other seafood that we eat. By the way, per the Air of Injustice:

“One-third of African Americans are avid anglers, and we eat fish more often and in larger portions than whites. Consequently, we have higher exposure to mercury.”

Exposure to mercury and other pollutants can lead to cancer, brain damage, birth defects… you name it (almost all parts of the body can be affected by mercury.) And to make matters worse, young children and fetuses are more vulnerable to the effects of these pollutants than adults.  Have you ever wondered why pregnant women are advised to cut down their intake on some types of fish? If you guessed because of mercury, you are right.

Check out this Mom’s Clean Air Force post that gives an excellent summary and illustration of How Mercury Poisoning works. And please, make your voice heard to STOP the TRAIN Act that would delay instituting Cross-State Air Pollution Regulations and Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for power plants.

If you continue to read the report, you will see other statistics that show African Americans are 3 times more likely to be hospitalized form Asthma than Caucasians. And we are 2 times more likely to die from Asthma than them as well.

Those facts are certainly disheartening. But what do you do when life is unfair? Do you whine about it? No! Do you walk around playing the victim? No!  What you should do is:

Take Responsibility – find out what you are doing to contribute to the situation.

Take Action – there are simple things that you can do now to clean up the air around you.

If you’ve never considered the affect that air pollution has on your family and your community, you can no longer say that you didn’t know. Now use that information as power. Start now before it’s too late!


Clean Air: Race and Place Matter
An Interview with Phillip Landigan, Mercury Expert


Devayani Patil
Devayani Patil6 years ago


Emma S.
Emma S6 years ago

Thank you for this. Just goes to show how insidious inequality is.

Douglas S.
Douglas S6 years ago

Wow! This is some good information. Thanks for the update.

Hege Torset
Hege Torset6 years ago


Alicia N.
Alicia N6 years ago

thanks for your article, loved the family's picture.

Carol Fyfe-Wilson

Our air could be cleaner if there was a ban on domestic chemical spraying (weeds in lawns), chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides used by farmers,golf courses (golf courses use 3x as much as farmers!!) parks and under powerlines, sides of highways, and tighter controls on effluents spewed from pulp mills, coal fired factories, etc.

Monica D.
Monica D6 years ago

Some other ways to take action would be to reduce your electricity use, reduce your fuel use by getting cleaner heating, and reduce your car use.

Lynn C.
Lynn C6 years ago

Thank you for the excellent article. Another ethnic group much affected by the dirty air around their homes are the Navaho and Hopi in No. Arizona. The Four Corners Power Plant has been belching foul smoke for decades - in fact, one of the things the first astronauts noticed about the US as they sailed over it, was the plume of smoke coming from those very stacks.

dAlbert M.
dAlbert M6 years ago

I thank Lamar and Ronnie TYLER for remanding the World that "Being disproportionally affected by diseases, unemployment, divorce, crime, failing education systems (the list goes on and on) are facts that African Americans live with every day. And if you didn’t know it, you need to add air pollution to that list too." which is the stark-naked TRUTH ! Unfortunately it is not only African-Americans but also tends to AFRICANS Globaly, Indians(Remember Bophal and 'UNION-CARBIDE), Bhangladeshi
Hispanics, Romas and the 'WRETCHED POOR OF THE EARTH EVERYWHERE whether they are HISPANIC-AMERINDO-AFRICAN BRAZILIANS as the frequent tragedies of the Haciendas illustrate,the Japanese, Chinese peasants AND EVEN Caucasians as well ! IT THE CURSE OF CAPITAL ("The Love of Money is the Root of ALL Evil"), THE CURSEDNESS, SELFISHNESS AND GREED inherent in HUMAN NATURE and ofcourse the "FEAR ,SUSPICION AND DISLIKE OF THAT WHICH DOES NOT LOOK LIKE US, IS DIFFERENT AND NOT SIMILAR TO US _that is Ethnic-Race Prejudice!! It is the UNSAVOURY BURDEN GENERIC MAN CARRIED WITH HIM (HER) WHEN HE LEFT 'THE GREAT RIFT VALLEY in AFRICA' and THE SOURCE OF THE MIGHTY 'WHITE' NILE !!!
Thanks once again to the TYLERS for the timely reminder the have posted !!

kathleen benbow
kathleen benbow6 years ago

I work at a hospital that services people from all around the Chicago area, and it's true that a disproportionate number of people with asthma happen to be African-American. Industrialization and jobs should not be at the cost of anyone's respiratory insufficiency.