Do Poor People Breathe Worse Air?
You’ve heard of America’s income gap and its technology gap. How about a pollution gap?
A well-reported study out of Yale University examined levels of particulate density in the air of several major cities, and cross-checked this data against census information covering the same locations. Their findings? People who were poor, less well-educated and nonwhite typically breathed far more dangerous air than their wealthier counterparts, often by a significant degree:
The greater the concentration of Hispanics, Asians, African Americans or poor residents in an area, the more likely that potentially dangerous compounds such as vanadium, nitrates and zinc are in the mix of fine particles they breathe.
The reasons for this were manifold and diverse, including a preponderance of nearby highways, power plants, rail yards and industrial plants. And of course the correlation to income was a no-brainer: less expensive housing in many cities is often found close to such polluters. This study offers some of the first compelling evidence that those domiciles may be, if anything, overpriced.
There remains much work to be done on understanding these different pollutants, and especially their various effects and the biological pathways they act upon. But this study represents a stern warning, and a fascinating adjunct to this earlier post about elevated rates of chronic sinus disease and sleep apnea among certain ethnicities.