Residential proximity to industrial sources of air pollution: interrelationships among race, poverty, and age

J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2001 Mar;51(3):406-21. doi: 10.1080/10473289.2001.10464271.

Abstract

This study builds on earlier work investigating statistical relationships between sociodemographic characteristics of populations and their residential proximity to industrial sources of air pollution. The analysis uses demographic data from the 1990 U.S. Census and industrial site data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s 1990 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The focus is on examining interactions among race (African Americans and Whites), poverty (above and below household poverty threshold), and age (children from birth to 5 years of age and elderly people 65 years old or older). Results from three different study areas (Kanawha Valley in West Virginia, the Baton Rouge-New Orleans Corridor in Louisiana, and the greater Baltimore metropolitan area in Maryland) suggest there are important interactions among race, poverty, and age that are likely to have consequential ramifications for efforts aimed at investigating issues related to environmental justice. Our results indicate that a substantial proportion of all demographic groups studied live within a mile of the nearest facility, with values ranging from 22% of Whites above poverty in the Baton Rouge-New Orleans Corridor to 60% of African Americans below poverty in Baltimore. Likewise, a substantial proportion of all demographic groups also live within 2 miles of four or more industrial facilities, with values ranging from 16% for Whites above poverty in the Corridor to 70% for African Americans below poverty in Baltimore. In all three study areas, African Americans were more likely than Whites to (1) live in households with incomes below the household poverty line, (2) have children 5 years of age or younger, (3) live closer to the nearest industrial emissions source, and (4) live within 2 miles of multiple industrial emission sources. Findings indicate that, compared with White children, a substantially higher proportion of African-American children 5 years of age or younger lived in poor households that were located in relatively close proximity to one or more industrial sources of air pollution.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Continental Population Groups*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class*
  • Urban Population