Socioeconomic Disparities and Air Pollution Exposure: a Global Review

Curr Environ Health Rep. 2015 Dec;2(4):440-50. doi: 10.1007/s40572-015-0069-5.


The existing reviews and meta-analyses addressing unequal exposure of environmental hazards on certain populations have focused on several environmental pollutants or on the siting of hazardous facilities. This review updates and contributes to the environmental inequality literature by focusing on ambient criteria air pollutants (including NOx), by evaluating studies related to inequality by socioeconomic status (as opposed to race/ethnicity) and by providing a more global perspective. Overall, most North American studies have shown that areas where low-socioeconomic-status (SES) communities dwell experience higher concentrations of criteria air pollutants, while European research has been mixed. Research from Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world has shown a general trend similar to that of North America, but research in these parts of the world is limited.

Keywords: Air pollution; Criteria air pollutants; Environmental inequality; Environmental justice; Social disadvantage; Socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Global Health
  • Hazardous Substances / analysis
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Social Class*
  • Social Justice / economics*
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Hazardous Substances
  • Particulate Matter