ARTICLES IN MEDIA



Why does air pollution disproportionately affect minority ethnic groups?

Publish on December 26, 2022     Source: WeForum


Ella Kissi-Debrah was the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as the cause of death. She was just nine years old when she died.

Ella was also from a minority ethnic background, making her more likely to live in an area with poor air quality, according to numerous studies covering the UK and US.

In England, people of colour are three times more likely to live in areas with high air pollution, according to research by environmental organization Friends of the Earth. These areas have pollution levels that are double World Health Organization (WHO) standards for at least one of the two most deadly air pollutants, the study found.

These pollutants are nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5), and the just over 2,500 areas found to have excess levels of these pollutants had an average minority ethnic population of 44%, according to Friends of the Earth.

This is far higher than the proportion of England’s residents who are from a minority ethnic background, which stands at 16.1%, UK newspaper The Guardian notes.

UK average levels of PM2.5

A similar study in the US by Harvard University’s public health school found that areas with above-average Black, Asian and Hispanic or Latino populations have been “consistently exposed” to higher average PM2.5 levels.

The research, published in the scientific journal Nature, combined 17 years of demographic data with figures on fine particulate pollution from across the US. “In 2016, the average PM2.5 concentration for the Black population was 13.7% higher than that of the white population,” it found.

In addition, as the Black population increased in a particular area, so did the PM2.5 concentration. And there was a “steep incline” for neighbourhoods where more than 85% of the population was Black, with a similar trend for areas with high Hispanic and Latino populations, the Harvard team noted.





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