Disparate exposure to fine particulate air pollution in formerly redlined cities : Chicago, Dallas, and Fort Worth

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Kane, Clare Ennis MacLise

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Fine particulate matter (PM₂.₅) pollution is the largest environmental health risk in the United States and globally (GBD, 2019). The leading sources of PM₂.₅ pollution in the United States are fossil-fuel combustion sources like power generation and residential energy use. People of color are disproportionately exposed to PM₂.₅ pollution and have higher rates of asthma, which is known to be triggered by PM₂.₅ exposure. This thesis evaluates satellite PM₂.₅ pollution in three formerly Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC) “redlined” cities (Chicago, Dallas, and Fort Worth) to determine if historic housing policies that have perpetuated residential segregation contribute to current disparities in PM₂.₅ pollution exposure. Results suggest that residents currently living in historically low-grade HOLC neighborhoods in Chicago are exposed to significantly higher levels of PM₂.₅ pollution than high-grade HOLC neighborhoods. Although results for Dallas-Fort Worth are not statistically significant, a positive relationship between increase in HOLC grade and PM₂.₅ concentrations was found. Additionally, formerly low-grade HOLC neighborhoods had significantly higher asthma rates in 2017 than high-grade HOLC areas in all three cities. All three cities also have qualitative examples of citizens who are residing in formerly redlined neighborhoods, experiencing high concentrations of PM₂.₅ pollution from surrounding industry, and experiencing poor health outcomes. These findings further support efforts by communities of color to understand energy equity and advocate for environmental justice policies in their neighborhoods as well as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) goal to understand the air quality concerns in overburdened communities and the health impacts these have on residents


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