Low-Income, Minority Communities Disproportionately Exposed to Toxic Air Pollutants, Study Finds
Low-income and minority neighborhoods are disproportionately affected by harmful and possible carcinogenic air pollutants, according to a study released on Tuesday by researchers from the University of Massachusetts and the University of Southern California, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
The study, funded by the Ford Foundation, is based on 2005 data from 300 metropolitan areas and ranks the cities based on how pollution affects low-income and minority neighborhoods. Much of the data came from the federal government's toxics release inventory, which requires the reporting of emissions of hundreds of chemicals.
Birmingham, Ala. -- which has heavy steel manufacturing and metal industries -- ranked first in both measures, and Baton Rouge, La. -- which has a large petrochemical center -- ranked second. Residential areas near such factories tend to have lower economic value, and many low-income and minority individuals live in the communities, researchers said.
Researchers noted that while the emissions from the factories were within federal standards, the findings indicate that minorities and the poor often face substantial exposure to environmental toxins, which can cause certain health conditions. According to the Journal Sentinel, the study is one of the first efforts to "correlate toxic emissions from factories with the ethnic and economic makeup of areas around them" and also "underscores the notion that pollution has a racial and economic dimension" (Bergquist, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/28).
Michael Ash, associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Massachusetts, said, "We really see that being on the wrong side of the environmental tracks applies to both low-income populations and minority populations. ... This type of information may be useful for community shareholders and community activists" (Lynch, Detroit News, 4/28).
The report is available online (.pdf).