African American and Low-Income Americans May Be More Susceptible to Health Effects of Air Pollution: Study - medtigo



African American and Low-Income Americans May Be More Susceptible to Health Effects of Air Pollution: Study

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Air pollution is a growing concern worldwide, and it is well known that exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) can have severe health consequences. Recent studies have shown that Black Americans and low-income individuals are disproportionately affected by this type of pollution. According to research, African Americans are exposed to higher levels of PM2.5 pollution than White Americans, and they may be more susceptible to its harmful effects. Similarly, low-income Americans may be more vulnerable to PM2.5 pollution than those with higher incomes.  

Despite this growing concern, there is still a significant lack of information on the exposure-response relationship between PM2.5 exposure and mortality among marginalized subpopulations categorized by both race and socioeconomic position. This lack of data makes it difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish appropriate regulatory standards for PM2.5 pollution. As a result, it is crucial to investigate the potential health impacts of PM2.5 exposure among marginalized communities in order to inform future regulatory decisions and protect public health.  

A recent study published in New England Journal of Medicine has highlighted the adverse health effects of air pollution containing fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and its impact on premature deaths. The study reveals that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter, including PM2.5, to ensure that both short- and long-term PM2.5 concentrations fall below prescribed levels.

However, the current primary standard for annual (long-term) average PM2.5 levels, set in 2012, is 12 μg per cubic meter, which may not be low enough to fulfill the EPA mandates to “protect the public’s health” and “achieve environmental justice” by mitigating environmental health inequities.  

Studies have shown that adverse health effects can occur at PM2.5 levels well below 12 μg per cubic meter, with marginalized subpopulations, such as low-income and African Americans, being disproportionately affected by PM2.5 pollution. To assess the health benefits of lower PM2.5 NAAQS, the study analyzed data from over 73 million Medicare enrollees from 2000 through 2016, linked with high-resolution PM2.5 exposure data and potential confounders.  

The study found that potentially nonlinear exposure-response curves for PM2.5 exposure and mortality differ between subpopulations, with exposure-response slopes being steeper among more marginalized subpopulations. However, currently available epidemiologic evidence is insufficient to effectively estimate the health benefits of lower PM2.5 NAAQS. The study suggests that the EPA must take into account these factors when setting regulatory standards for PM2.5 pollution to ensure that the health of the public and sensitive populations is protected.  

Structural racism and social exclusion of low-income Americans are associated with inequities in both exposure and susceptibility to PM2.5. The researchers found that race is more salient than income in driving inequities in PM2.5 exposure. The greater susceptibility to PM2.5 pollution found among marginalized subpopulations is attributable to social structural forces rather than innate biological differences. 


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