Air Pollution Emissions Down Since 1970 Clear Air Act, but Inequities Persist

In HealthDay News
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Racial/ethnic disparities identified, especially in industry and energy generation source sectors

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 23, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Air pollution emissions across the United States decreased on average from 1970 to 2010, with racial/ethnic disparities observed, especially in the industry and energy generation source sectors, according to a study published online Jan. 17 in Nature Communications.

Yanelli Nunez, Ph.D., from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, and colleagues examined county-level racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in emissions changes from six air pollution source sectors (industry, energy, agriculture, on-road transportation, commercial, and residential) in the United States during the 40 years after enactment of the Clean Air Act (1970 to 2010).

Air pollution emissions from all source sectors decreased across the United States from 1970 to 2010, on average. The researchers identified racial/ethnic disparities, especially in the industry and energy generation source sectors. Median family income was identified as a driver of variation in relative emissions changes in all sectors; larger relative declines in industry, energy, transportation, residential, and commercial-related emissions were seen in counties with median family income >$75,000 versus less.

“Policies specifically targeting reductions in overburdened populations could support more just reductions in air pollution and reduce disparities in air pollution exposure,” Nunez said in a statement. “This is an important lesson gained from 53 years of Clean Air Act implementation, which is particularly relevant as we develop policies to transition to renewable energy sources, which will have a collateral impact on air quality and, as a result, on public health.”

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