A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013, in New Eagle, Pa. 
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

A new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota have uncovered a disquieting racial gap when it comes to exposure to air pollution, the MinnPost reports.

Examining air-pollution exposure across racial, economic, educational and other relevant categories, researchers realized that race and income had the greatest impact on exposure, with people of color being exposed to 38 percent more outdoor nitrogen oxide from vehicle exhaust and power plants than their white counterparts. Exposure has been linked to higher rates of asthma and heart disease.

“The main ones are race and income, and they both matter,” lead researcher Julian Marshall, an associate professor at the university, told the MinnPost in an interview. “In our findings, however, race matters more than income.”

The concentration of nitrogen dioxide is also higher for those with lower incomes and those with less than a high school education than it is for people who are economically better off and have had access to at least a high school education, the Post notes.

“We were quite surprised to find such a large disparity between whites and nonwhites related to air pollution,” Marshall said. “Especially the fact that this difference is throughout the U.S., even in cities and states in the Midwest.”


“The health impacts from the difference in levels between whites and nonwhites found in the study are substantial,” the study states, according to the site. “For example, researchers estimate that if nonwhites breathed the lower NO2 [nitrogen] levels experienced by whites, it would prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease alone among nonwhites each year.”

Read more at the MinnPost.