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Unfair Air?

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People of color in the U.S. are exposed to 38 percent more nitrogen dioxide air pollution in the neighborhoods in which they live than are white people, according to new research from the University of Minnesota. The exposure they receive results in approximately 7,000 heart-related deaths per year. 

U of M Instititute on the Environment resident fellows Julian Marshall and Dylan Millet and fellow researcher Lara Clark compared U.S. Census data and nitrogen dioxide levels in cities across the country and found that, irrespective of income, nonwhites had higher average exposure to nitrogen dioxide than whites. The findings received extensive coverage in the media this past week. 

"The molecule [nitrogen dioxide] is not racist," said Marshall, responding to a tongue-in-cheek comment from Melissa Harris-Perry on her Sunday, April 20, MSNBC show. "But people do not live in places at random, as people have talked about on your show thus far. On average there are differences in exposure by race."

Marshall says that because this type of pollution comes from burning fuels, such as gas and diesel from motor vehicles and coal from electricity generation, the way to close the "pollution gap" would be to target emission reductions where people are the most exposed. 

Speaking on MSNBC's NewsNation on Monday, April 21, Marshall said the next step will be to determine why there are large differences between cities. 

Julian Marshall is an associate professor in the College of Science and Engineering; Dylan Millet is associate professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and Lara Clark is a CSE doctoral student. 

Read more about the study on the U of M homepage in "Groundbreaking Study Finds that People of Color Live in Neighborhoods with More Air Pollution than Whites, and check out this YouTube video abstract of the report. Of course, a Google search will yield many more articles about the study.



Photo, "Duality," by Brian Carson (Flickr Creative Commons)

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