Study Maps the Spatial Patterns of U.S. Environmental Injustice

A new study by researchers from the University of Minnesota presents a sweeping portrait of trends in exposure to nitrogen dioxide across the United States.

Emily Badger shares news of a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota in the journal PLOS ONE, who “have created a sweeping picture of unequal exposure to one key pollutant -- nitrogen dioxide, produced by cars, construction equipment and industrial sources -- that's been linked to higher risks of asthma and heart attack.”

"National Patters in Environmental Injustice and Inequality: Outdoor NO2 Air Pollution in the United States" expands on previous studies, which focused on specific metropolitan areas or the rare places that do a good job of monitoring pollution. The findings of the recent study: “all over the country, in even the most rural states and the cleanest cities...minorities are exposed to more of the pollution than whites.”

"Specifically, they found that minorities are on average exposed to 38 percent higher levels of outdoor NO2 than whites in the communities where they live, based on demographic data from the 2000 census. That gap varies across the country, though, and it's substantially wider in the biggest cities. Nationwide, the difference in exposure is akin to approximately 7,000 deaths a year from heart disease."

The article has the critical maps and infographics displaying the patterns of environmental injustice and inequality. And as a teaser for what lies therein: “the New York/Newark metropolitan area ranks as having the widest disparity in average exposure between lower-income minority census block groups and upper-income white ones across the entire metro area,” reports Badger.

Full Story: Pollution is segregated, too

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