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  • A helicopter flies over the Hudson River with One World Trade Center and Lower Manhattan in the background, on a hazy day in New York City, Dec. 6, 2015.

    A helicopter flies over the Hudson River with One World Trade Center and Lower Manhattan in the background, on a hazy day in New York City, Dec. 6, 2015. | Photo: REUTERS

Published 12 March 2019

There is a large racial gap in the United States between those who suffer from air pollution and those who create it at higher levels, based on a study of consumption

A new study showed that minority populations in the United States experience the effects of pollution more than the amount they cause, as opposed to white people, who experience less pollution than what they cause, based on consumption numbers.

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The study, coming out of the University of Washington (UW) and conducted by University of Minnesota (UM) professor Jason Hill and UW professor Christopher Tessum, made this conclusion by studying patterns of consumption and tracing them back to their sources, and then taking that data and comparing them to communities that experience the most pollution.

They discovered that white populations as compared to Black and Latino populations consume goods at different levels and that those levels bear out in their overall effect on air pollution.

This study is the first to show that whites experience about 17 percent less air pollution than they produce, based on their consumption, while Blacks and Latinos bear 56 and 63 percent more air pollution, respectively, than they cause by their consumption.

"These patterns didn't seem to be driven by different kinds of consumption," says Tessum in the study, "but different overall levels." This means, that overall, whites consume at higher levels than other populations with the same kinds of products that produce air pollution, whether based on consumer goods or food.

The pollutants that are most harmful to health and which this study was based on is called “particulate matter 2.5” and which has be linked with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.

There have been numerous studies showing that Black, Latino and non-White Hispanics (which can include people of Asian or Indigenous descent) experience pollution at higher rates.

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