Air pollution is not equally distributed around America.
Wealthy white Americans get to breathe cleaner air than lower-income communities of color, according to a new study. The disadvantaged parts of the US continue to have the worst air.
The most polluted census tracts in 1981 remained the most polluted in 2016, according to the peer-reviewed research in the journal Science.
Southern California in particular struggles with dirtier air from highways, fossil fuel operations and industrial facilities.
“If a child was born in Los Angeles county today, they would be exposed to the same amount of pollution the average child was exposed to in the early 1990s,” said Jonathan Colmer, a co-author and economics professor who directs the Environmental Inequality Lab at the University of Virginia.
Fine particle pollution – which is 2.5 micrometers or smaller – is microscopic, about 40 times smaller than a grain of sand. It can travel deep into the lungs, bloodstream and brain and reduce life expectancy and contribute to lung cancer and heart disease.
“Air pollution contributes to as many as 9 million premature deaths worldwide every year. This is twice as many as war, other violence, HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined,” Colmer said.