Disproportionate air pollution exposure in African-American communities

Dr Elica A Moss, at Alabama A&M University, explains the ongoing issue of disproportionate air pollution exposure in African-American communities in the US

Working with the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Dr Moss highlights an issue that is deeply influential on the health outcomes of African-American communities.

When it comes to African-American communities, Governments have successively failed to tackle issues that cause ongoing, generational health issues. Now, with a global focus on air quality, climate change is at the forefront of discussions. Much like the Global South is taking the heaviest hit from air pollution, it appears that within the US, African-Americans are disproportionately suffering from air pollution exposure.

Dr Moss explains that: “African Americans, people of colour and those from low-income communities face many environmental issues in addition to air pollution exposure.”

She also highlights that “proximity to hazardous waste facilities and landfills” are often close to or within “communities of colour, which in addition to leading to disproportionate exposures to air pollutants, similarly, results in matters related to soil and water quality.”

The systematic racism of environmental consequences is in the very soil, the water that is provided to these communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic cast fresh light on these health and environmental inequities.

According to Dr Moss, a Harvard University study of over 3,000 counties in the U.S. found that higher historical PM2.5 exposures are positively associated with higher county-level COVID-19 mortality rates.

She further comments: “Chronic exposure to particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone from industrial facilities, highways and ongoing construction can lead to diabetes, heart diseases, asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory issues which are risk factors for COVID-19.”

The issue of air quality is now intertwined with racial justice, a pandemic, and the future of climate change. To find out about the intensive research done by Dr Moss in collaboration with the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, read more here.


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