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Almost All Types of Air Pollution Disproportionately Affect People of Color

Researchers had hoped to narrow down sources of fine particulate matter to help target environmental justice efforts. Instead they found that a new approach may be needed.

     
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Air pollution disproportionately affects communities of color in the U.S.—this has been known for years, if not decades. But a new study out Wednesday in the journal Science Advances shows that not only is this true across states, urban and rural environments, and income levels, it’s true regardless of the type of pollution, suggesting that traditional mitigation methods may not be enough to fix the disparity.

Fine particulate matter produced by human activity is responsible for between 85,000 and 200,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. “This is not a new problem,” said Christopher Tessum, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the paper’s lead author.