Communities of color most impacted by air pollution in DC, study says

Clean air is not distributed equally in the nation’s capital, according to a new study.

In the District, “Communities of color and with lower educational attainment and lower income levels were overburdened both by pollution and by the health risks related to those pollution levels,” said study co-author Susan Anenberg, an associate professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

A decrease in life expectancy of about 10 years was seen in the most affected areas. People living in wards 5, 7 and 8 were found to be most impacted by air pollution.

Anenberg called the findings “unfortunately predictable,” and said “this is one of a long line of studies that is exposing the fact that air pollution remains inequitably distributed in cities across the United States.”

A variety of factors could be driving this, Anenberg said.

“We do have a lot of evidence from across the country that sources of pollution … they’re more densely located in communities of color, and, again, with lower educational attainment and lower income levels.”

The hope is to now better monitor pollution levels and come up with strategies for reducing them.

Examples include replacing diesel-powered buses and trash trucks with electric vehicles and putting more controls on local industrial emissions.

“There’s a variety of measures that can be taken to reduce pollution, and if we know who is being overburdened, we can target those measures to reduce pollution more for those communities,” Anenberg said.

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, PA, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP sports.

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