Disparities in Distribution of Particulate Matter Emission Sources by Race and Poverty Status

Am J Public Health. 2018 Apr;108(4):480-485. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.304297. Epub 2018 Feb 22.


Objectives: To quantify nationwide disparities in the location of particulate matter (PM)-emitting facilities by the characteristics of the surrounding residential population and to illustrate various spatial scales at which to consider such disparities.

Methods: We assigned facilities emitting PM in the 2011 National Emissions Inventory to nearby block groups across the 2009 to 2013 American Community Survey population. We calculated the burden from these emissions for racial/ethnic groups and by poverty status. We quantified disparities nationally and for each state and county in the country.

Results: For PM of 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less, those in poverty had 1.35 times higher burden than did the overall population, and non-Whites had 1.28 times higher burden. Blacks, specifically, had 1.54 times higher burden than did the overall population. These patterns were relatively unaffected by sensitivity analyses, and disparities held not only nationally but within most states and counties as well.

Conclusions: Disparities in burden from PM-emitting facilities exist at multiple geographic scales. Disparities for Blacks are more pronounced than are disparities on the basis of poverty status. Strictly socioeconomic considerations may be insufficient to reduce PM burdens equitably across populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Particulate Matter* / administration & dosage
  • Particulate Matter* / adverse effects
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data


  • Particulate Matter