Shared from the 3/12/2019 The Denver Post eEdition
Blacks, Hispanics breathe more pollution than they make
By Seth Borenstein
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON» 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 government and not goods exported elsewhere, the study said.