AP

Blacks, Hispanics breathe more pollution than they make

Mar 11, 2019, 2:45 PM
pollution...
FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2018 photo, smokestacks near an oil refinery are seen in front of the Utah State Capitol as an inversion settles over Salt Lake City. A new study released Monday, March 11, 2019, says African-Americans and Hispanics breathe in far more deadly air pollution than they are responsible for making. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

By SETH BORENSTEIN AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — African-Americans and Hispanics breathe in far more deadly air pollution than they are responsible for making, a new study said.

A study looked at who is exposed to fine particle pollution — responsible for about 100,000 American deaths a year — and how much different races are responsible for the pollution based on their buying, driving and living habits.

Scientists calculate that Hispanics on average breathe in 63 percent more of the pollution that leads to heart and breathing deaths than they make. For African-Americans, the figure is 56 percent, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

On the other hand, non-Hispanic whites on average are exposed to 17 percent less air pollution than they make.

“Even though minorities are contributing less to the overall problem of air pollution, they are affected by it more,” said study co-author Jason Hill, a biosystems engineering professor at the University of Minnesota who is white. “Is it fair (that) I create more pollution and somebody else is disproportionately affected by it?”

This pollution comes from gases from smokestacks, tailpipes and other places that then solidify into fine invisible particles small enough to pass through lungs and into bloodstreams. These particles, more than 25 times smaller than the width of a human hair, pose the greatest risk to people’s health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

While other studies have shown minorities living with more pollution, this study is one of the first to combine buying habits and exposure into one calculation of inequity, Hill said.

Hill and colleagues looked at pollution from highways, coal-fired power plants, hog farms and other sources.

They then looked in a large scale at who is driving more, buying more goods and food, spending more on property and using more electricity, then traced those purchases to end users.

“On average whites tend to consume more than minorities. It’s because of wealth,” Hill said. “It’s largely how much you buy, not buying different things.”

Of 103,000 particle pollution deaths a year, 83,000 can be traced to the activities of people in the United States — not the government and not goods exported elsewhere, the study said.

Several outside experts praised the research.

“These findings confirm what most grassroots environmental justice leaders have known for decades, ‘whites are dumping their pollution on poor people and people of color’,” said Texas Southern University public affairs professor Robert Bullard, who was not part of the research. Bullard, often called the father of environmental justice, is African-American.

Bullard said his and other past research shows that African-Americans are 79 percent more likely than whites to live where industrial pollution is highest, with people of color overrepresented near Superfund sites and oil refineries.

He said there are far more mostly minority schools within 500 feet of major highways than mostly white schools.

“Being able to quantify the inequity is a key step toward addressing and reducing inequity,” said Christopher Frey, a professor of environmental engineering at North Carolina State University, who is white and not part of the research.

One bright spot is that in recent decades the air has been getting cleaner in general, Hill said. However, his study stopped in 2015 and EPA data shows an uptick in fine particle pollution in 2017. But even with the cleaner air, it is still inequitable, Hill said.
___

Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears.
___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

Travelers wait in for a TSA security check at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles,...
DAVID KOENIG ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pre-pandemic sized crowds descend on US airports for holiday

TSA is reporting crowds of pre-pandemic size are traveling this Independence Day.
16 hours ago
Residents stand in front of building destroyed by missiles in Ukraine...
FRANCESCA EBEL Associated Press

Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region

The Ukrainian president's office said three Kh-22 missiles fired by Russian bombers struck an apartment building and a campsite.
16 hours ago
Ketanji Brown Jackson takes the oath for the Supreme Court....
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Jackson sworn in, becomes 1st Black woman on Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, will be sworn as the court's 116th justice Thursday, just as the man she is replacing, Justice Stephen Breyer, retires.
2 days ago
The Supreme Court is pictured. The court just limited the EPA...
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Supreme Court limits EPA in curbing power plant emissions

The Supreme Court on Thursday limited how the nation's main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
2 days ago
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, ...
DARLENE SUPERVILLE and ZEKE MILLER Associated Press

Biden says transatlantic alliance has adapted to new threats

Biden's comments came at a press conference in Madrid at the conclusion of the annual meeting of NATO leaders and after he attended a summit with the Group of Seven advanced democratic economies in the Bavarian Alps.
2 days ago
A Rite Aid logo is displayed on its store...
HALELUYA HADERO, AP Reporter

Amazon, Rite Aid cap purchase of emergency contraceptives

Retailers limiting purchases is standard practice that helps retailers prevent stockpiling and reselling at higher prices.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Blacks, Hispanics breathe more pollution than they make