People Of Color Make Up Over Half The Population Breathing Unclean Air

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According to the American Lung Association’s 2024 State of the Air report, millions of individuals across the nation are exposed to unhealthy air quality, with communities of color disproportionately affected.

Despite decades-long efforts to curb air pollution, a staggering 131.2 million Americans, constituting 39% of the overall population, reside in areas plagued by unhealthy ozone or particulate matter levels. While people of color represent 41.6% of the country’s population, they account for a startling 52% of those residing in counties that have received at least one failing grade for air quality. In the counties with the most severe air pollution, where all three measures of air quality have failed, a shocking 63% of the nearly 44 million residents are people of color, in stark contrast to the 37% who are white.

“State of the Air” notes the surge in the number of individuals whose health is at risk, listing contributing factors, including extreme heat, drought, and wildfires, which have collectively fueled a steady increase in deadly particulate matter with pollution heavy in the western regions of the United States. While the organization’s report initially highlighted the successes of the Clean Air Act in mitigating emissions from transportation, power plants, and manufacturing sectors, recent findings have underscored the mounting evidence that the climate shift poses formidable challenges in safeguarding human health.

BLACK ENTERPRISE previously reported that with beauty products disproportionately marketed to Black women, the placement of power fuel plants across the United States is devastating their health and the environment. Researchers found Black women were more likely to reside near power plants, and with emissions reducing air quality, they are at a higher risk of respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis.

Based on ozone and year-round particulate levels over an extended period, the “State of the Air” report listed several cities across California as being among the most polluted locales.

The American Lung Association urges individuals to take proactive measures to protect themselves and their families from the perils of air pollution by monitoring daily air quality forecasts, minimizing personal contributions to air pollution, leveraging tax incentives to reduce emissions from homes and vehicles, and advocating alongside local policymakers and civic organizations for cleaner air initiatives.

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