Study Finds Air Pollution Disproportionately Affects the Health of Black People in California’s Bay Area

Illustration for article titled Study Finds Air Pollution Disproportionately Affects the Health of Black People in California’s Bay Area
Photo: Aaron Kohr (Shutterstock)

I’m just kind of tired of Black people being disproportionately affected by things, y’all. It’s never for anything good. It’s never anything like “Black people are disproportionately more likely to find 20 bucks on the sidewalk.” Instead, it tends to be situations like the one in Oakland, Calif., where a recent study found that Black people were more likely to suffer negative health effects from air pollution than the city’s white population.


According to ABC 7, a study conducted by the Environmental Health Fund (EDF) and George Washington University used data from sensors and satellite technology to track the effects of traffic-related pollution in Oakland. The results of that study revealed that the city’s Black residents were more likely to suffer negative health outcomes as a result of air pollution in the city.

“About 2,500 lives were lost and about 5,200 children develop new cases of asthma every year due to this traffic related pollution,” Sarah Vogel, Ph.D., vice president of the EDF, told ABC 7.

The EDF used the data gathered by the study to create a map tracking which areas in the city had the highest percentages of childhood asthma. The map revealed the West Oakland and downtown Oakland areas, both of which have predominantly Black and non-white populations, as having the highest rates of new childhood asthma cases. In the Oakland Hills, which has a mostly white population, the rate of new cases is much lower.

The Port of Oakland is located near West Oakland, and heavy container truck traffic could be a contributing factor as to why one in two new cases of childhood asthma stems from traffic-related pollution. Conversely, only one in five childhood asthma cases are related to traffic-based pollution in the Oakland hills.

Researchers hope that this data pushes state and local lawmakers to enact new regulations and push towards zero-emission vehicles. In the adjacent Berkeley, City Council members have expressed frustration with the limited amount of authority they have to enact new traffic regulations.

“I think we’re going to be pushing at the state and federal level to give us more authority to do that or just insist the state does this themselves,” said council member Kate Harrison.


Hopefully, this study motivates some kind of change, as it would be nice for us to have one less thing we’re disproportionately affected by.

The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin' and dealin' nerd of The Root.


It’s the same for Asians in Boston, so I think you can figure for most cities by just looking at a map and seeing who lives near the highway incursions into the urban core.