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Media opportunity: New research suggests systemic racism could explain why minorities are exposed to more pollution throughout California
A new study by researchers at Dalhousie University and the University of California San Diego suggests ethnic minorities experience significantly more air pollution from economic activity compared to predominantly white neighborhoods in California.
The paper, published Thursday in the journal Nature Sustainability, looked at California’s environmental regulations and found that as a whole they preferentially protect white, non-Hispanic people in the state from exposure to air pollution.
The researchers compared patterns of air pollution both before and during lockdowns in 2020, using data from public and privately-owned air monitor networks, along with satellite measurements of the pollutant gas nitrogen dioxide.
They found that during the period when the “in-person” economy was shut down, neighborhoods with high Asian and Hispanic populations experienced disproportionately large declines in air pollution. That means the inverse is true when it’s business as usual.
While the study is limited to the state of California, the researchers believe the disparity in air quality between ethnicities likely applies to other jurisdictions. They plan on expanding their analysis to Ontario, where the studied pollutants caused more than 4,500 premature deaths in 2016.
Susanne Benz, a Banting postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Civil and Resource Engineering at Dalhousie, co-wrote the paper and is available to discuss the implications for other regions and how unhealthy air is linked to higher mortality rates as well as respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.
Senior Research Reporter
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