Making the environmental justice grade: the relative burden of air pollution exposure in the United States.


Journal Article

This paper assesses whether the Clean Air Act and its Amendments have been equally successful in ensuring the right to healthful air quality in both advantaged and disadvantaged communities in the United States. Using a method to rank air quality established by the American Lung Association in its 2009 State of the Air report along with EPA air quality data, we assess the environmental justice dimensions of air pollution exposure and access to air quality information in the United States. We focus on the race, age, and poverty demographics of communities with differing levels of ozone and particulate matter exposure, as well as communities with and without air quality information. Focusing on PM2.5 and ozone, we find that within areas covered by the monitoring networks, non-Hispanic blacks are consistently overrepresented in communities with the poorest air quality. The results for older and younger age as well as poverty vary by the pollution metric under consideration. Rural areas are typically outside the bounds of air quality monitoring networks leaving large segments of the population without information about their ambient air quality. These results suggest that substantial areas of the United States lack monitoring data, and among areas where monitoring data are available, low income and minority communities tend to experience higher ambient pollution levels.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Miranda, ML; Edwards, SE; Keating, MH; Paul, CJ

Published Date

  • June 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 8 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 1755 - 1771

PubMed ID

  • 21776200

Pubmed Central ID

  • 21776200

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1660-4601

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1661-7827

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.3390/ijerph8061755


  • eng