A new study concluded that older Black adults are three times more likely to die of air pollution than white adults.
The latest report was part of a data analysis by Industrial Economics, a consulting group contracted by the Environmental Defense Fund. Air pollution is considered the most significant health risk nationwide, killing over 60,000 Americans since 2019.
Once the deadly particles are deposited through the lungs and into the bloodstream, they can cause cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurological diseases. Researchers examined Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. census data, Medicare recipients, and peer-reviewed findings to determine which racial group of older adults was mainly affected by air contamination.
The study also found that elderly Black and Hispanic adults ages 65 and older were more susceptible to air pollution, containing higher PM2.5 concentrations than white and non-Hispanic populations. In addition, experts revealed that those in disadvantaged communities are exposed to the pollutants that cause adverse health effects.
While race is the primary factor in air pollution-related deaths, “low-income populations currently have 49 percent higher likelihood of living in areas exceeding 12 µg/m3 compared to wealthier populations,” the study read. As a result, the differences indicate that low-income populations have a 5 percent higher chance of living in areas that surpass eight µg/m3.
According to the study, air pollution accounts for more than 300 deaths per 100,000 population from exposure. However, the results are solely based on race, with Black Americans maintaining the highest mortality rate at 670 deaths per 100,000, Hispanics with the second-highest at 270 deaths per 100,000, whites at 210 deaths per 100,000, and Native Americans at 200 deaths per 100,000.
Environmental Defense Fund senior health scientist Ananya Roy noted how air pollution and other harmful policies continue to affect the Black communities with little to no resolution.
“This shines a light on the cumulative impact of historic discriminatory policies where a lot of large African American (or) Black populations live,” she said. “The burden borne by Black Americans per capita is really, really disproportionate.”
In April, the Biden Administration revealed 90 federal policies that would combat racial and gender inequality among Black Americans and other at-risk groups in the United States. The initiatives were established over a year after Biden signed an executive order as part of a promise he made on the campaign trail in 2020. Those plans included “300 concrete strategies and commitments to address the systemic barriers in our nation’s policies and programs that hold too many underserved communities back from prosperity, dignity, and equality.”