Environmental Health News discusses environmental injustice in Pittsburgh, where poor, minority neighborhoods see higher rates of deaths from air pollution. “Systemic racism is not limited to one system.”
If air pollution levels in all of Allegheny County were lowered to match the levels seen in its least-polluted neighborhoods, about 100 fewer residents would die of coronary heart disease every year, according to a new study.
A majority of the lives that would be saved by such an initiative are in the region’s poor and minority communities—people who are also particularly susceptible to contracting and dying from COVID-19.
“Losing any lives to a preventable cause like pollution is tragic, and more deeply so when that human cost is borne unfairly along economic and racial lines,” Joylette Portlock, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, a Pittsburgh-based environmental and community advocacy nonprofit, told EHN.
The entire Pittsburgh region has problems with air pollution, but levels can vary widely between neighborhoods due to a variety of factors including industrial pollution sources, traffic patterns, and geography.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Allegheny County Health Department and published in the journal Environmental Health in March, found that the region’s most polluted census tracts are often in poor and minority neighborhoods, while the census tracts with the cleanest air tend to be in wealthier and whiter neighborhoods. This results in a higher rate of air pollution-related deaths from coronary heart disease in poor and minority neighborhoods.