Impact of Environmental Injustice on Children's Health-Interaction between Air Pollution and Socioeconomic Status

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 19;18(2):795. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18020795.


Air pollution disproportionately affects marginalized populations of lower socioeconomic status. There is little literature on how socioeconomic status affects the risk of exposure to air pollution and associated health outcomes, particularly for children's health. The objective of this article was to review the existing literature on air pollution and children's health and discern how socioeconomic status affects this association. The concept of environmental injustice recognizes how underserved communities often suffer from higher air pollution concentrations in addition to other underlying risk factors for impaired health. This exposure then exerts larger effects on their health than it does in the average population, affecting the whole body, including the lungs and the brain. Children, whose organs and mind are still developing and who do not have the means of protecting themselves or creating change, are the most vulnerable to the detrimental effects of air pollution and environmental injustice. The adverse health effects of air pollution and environmental injustice can harm children well into adulthood and may even have transgenerational effects. There is an urgent need for action in order to ensure the health and safety of future generations, as social disparities are continuously increasing, due to social discrimination and climate change.

Keywords: air pollution; children; cognitive development; environmental injustice; respiratory health; socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child Health
  • Climate Change
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Humans
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Air Pollutants