A new study reveals that older Black adults are three times more likely to die of air pollution than white adults. The report is part of a data analysis released this month by Industrial Economics, a consulting firm commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund.
Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. census data was analyzed as well as health and mortality rates of those who receive Medicare. In addition, the report included peer-reviewed studies on elderly adults’ exposure to air pollutants which determined who is the most vulnerable and by how much.
What it revealed was that people of color were at risk the most when the U.S. elder population (65 and older) was examined. Experts concluded the study shows how race plays a crucial role regarding who is exposed to air pollution. Industry placement is also vital and typically affect marginalized neighborhoods.
Environmental Defense Fund senior health scientist Ananya Roy notes this harrowing discrepancy. “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,” said Roy.
The report also showed that around 670 per 100,000 older Black people died of air-pollution-related health conditions. This is three times the rate of white Americans. The rate for white Americans was 210, per 100,000. Also, older Hispanic adults had a death rate of 260 and Native Americans 200.
Overall, those living in poverty have a higher risk of death by 30%. In April, the Biden Administration launched a series of racial equity initiatives which 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.”
One of the initiatives was the Environmental Protection Agency employing a tool to evaluate how permitting decisions impact pollution in marginalized and low-income communities. This study affirmed that more action is needed by the EPA to ensure that those most prone to pollution can be protected.