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Air Quality Mirrors the Racial Segregation of US Neighborhoods

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Racial inequity biases algorithms, skews Covid-19 death rates, and exacerbates the digital divide. Your race is even a good predictor of what’s in the air you breathe—and now, a new study shows that those pollution concentrations are also tied to how segregated your community is.

Using five years’ worth of data, a team led by scientists at Colorado State University confirmed a long-suspected link between ambient air quality and racial residential segregation. In a recent paper published in Nature Communications, they show that people in highly segregated counties in the United States are exposed to more fine particulate matter, airborne particles that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (or PM 2.5 for short). What’s more, the makeup of that pollution contains higher toxic metal concentrations than what is found in well-integrated areas. The results are congruent with a growing number of studies showing that people of color are exposed to heightened levels of pollution compared to their white counterparts, crucial information that could be used to push for more…



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