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Fine-particle air pollution has decreased across the US, but poor and minority communities are still the most polluted

Fine particulate air pollution is referred to as PM2.5 because the particles are less than 2.5 microns in diameter – 40 times smaller than a grain of sand. Credit: Washington department of Ecology Air pollution contributes to as many as 9 million premature deaths worldwide each year—twice as many as war, other violence, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined . Fine particulate matter air pollution is especially dangerous: Microscopic particles readily enter the lungs, bloodstream and brain, with health effects that include infant death, reduced life expectancy for adults, cancer, lung disease and heart disease.

Fine particle matter pollution concentrations in the United States have declined by roughly 70% since 1981. However, in a newly published study , we show that the areas that were most polluted in 1981 are still the most polluted today, and the least polluted areas in 1981 are still the least polluted today.

Areas that were whiter and richer in 1981 have become relatively less polluted over time. Areas that became whiter and richer between 1981 and 2016 have become relatively less polluted over time. In contrast, the neighborhoods and population groups that were most exposed to fine particle pollution 40 years ago—disproportionately low-income and minority communities—are […]

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