Research ArticleSCIENCE POLICY

PM2.5 polluters disproportionately and systemically affect people of color in the United States

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Science Advances  28 Apr 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 18, eabf4491
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abf4491


Racial-ethnic minorities in the United States are exposed to disproportionately high levels of ambient fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5), the largest environmental cause of human mortality. However, it is unknown which emission sources drive this disparity and whether differences exist by emission sector, geography, or demographics. Quantifying the PM2.5 exposure caused by each emitter type, we show that nearly all major emission categories—consistently across states, urban and rural areas, income levels, and exposure levels—contribute to the systemic PM2.5 exposure disparity experienced by people of color. We identify the most inequitable emission source types by state and city, thereby highlighting potential opportunities for addressing this persistent environmental inequity.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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