A new, joint study by researchers from the University of Washington and University of Minnesota shows that people of color are still exposed to more pollution created by trucks and cars than whites. The finding is yet another reason why the L.A. City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti must change their troubling approach towards the construction of new freeway-adjacent housing.
The researchers looked at how air pollution emitted from vehicles impacted people of different racial and economic backgrounds in the United States. Using U.S. Census data between 2000 and 2010, the researchers found an alarming fact: people of color are still exposed to more transportation pollution than whites.
Unhealthy air from cars and trucks has actually decreased in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010, the researchers found, but people of color still breathe in 37 percent more pollution than whites. Numerous reports, such as USC’s landmark Children’s Health Study and a UCLA study, have shown that children, seniors and pregnant women living within 500 to 750 feet of freeways face serious health impacts, including asthma and premature pregnancies, due to air pollution.
“We see that at any level of income,” said Julian Marshall, senior author and UW professor of civil and environmental engineering, “there’s a large gap between whites and non-whites. It’s striking and I’m still surprised by that; those results stare me in the face every day.”
A University of Washington press statement further noted:
“This raises the question of how many harmful health outcomes might have resulted in nonwhite populations due to their higher levels of exposure to the air pollutant. The estimated average NO2 concentration burden for nonwhites relative to whites was associated with an estimated 7,000 premature deaths from ischemic heart disease (IHD) in 2000 and 5,000 premature deaths in 2010. This study called for further research into the fatal outcomes of this lopsided pollution burden.”
In Los Angeles, after knowing for at least a decade that children, seniors and others who live in freeway-adjacent housing are highly susceptible to life-altering health impacts, the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti have still not implemented substantive mitigation measures for new homes built next to freeways.
Such as creating a buffer zone between a freeway and a new apartment building or creating a mandatory notification system in which developers and landlords of a new housing complex must inform prospective tenants about health risks.
So far, the City Council and Garcetti have only implemented an air-filtration program for new homes, but scientists have said that filters do not adequately capture the smallest particles of air pollution that come rushing, like one wave after another, from busy freeways.
What’s worse, the City Council and Garcetti continue to approve new freeway-adjacent housing development — also known as “black lung lofts” — without substantive mitigation measures.
The Coalition to Preserve L.A. has consistently called for City Hall politicians to do more to protect the public’s health, putting people over profits. The new study from University of Washington and University of Minnesota researchers only underlines the need for real action.