Deadly air pollutant ‘disproportionately and systematically’ harms Americans of color, study finds

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Nearly every source of the nation’s most pervasive and deadly air pollutant disproportionately affects Americans of color, regardless of their location or income level, according to a study published Wednesday. The analysis of fine-particle matter, which includes soot, shows how decisions made decades ago about where to build highways and industrial plants continue to harm the health of Black, Latino and Asian Americans today.

The findings of researchers from five universities, published in the online journal Scientific Advances, provide the most detailed evidence to date of how Americans of color have not reaped the same benefits as White Americans, even though the country has made major strides in curbing pollution from cars, trucks, factories and other sources. The particles studied have diameters of no more than 2.5 micrometers — one-thirtieth the width of a human hair — and can become embedded in the lungs. Known as Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5, they account for between 85,000 and 200,000 premature U.S. deaths each year.

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