Sumary of COVID-19 shutdowns reveal racial disparities in exposure to air pollution:
- A new study of COVID-19 shutdowns in the United States reveals pronounced disparities in air pollution — with disenfranchised, minority neighborhoods still experiencing more exposure to a harmful air pollutant compared to wealthier, white communities.
- “At the same time, our study shows that an air pollutant called nitrogen dioxide was still disproportionately higher in marginalized, mostly Latino and Black neighborhoods.
- ” Nitrogen dioxide is formed when fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas or diesel are burned at high temperatures.
- Cars, trucks and buses are the largest source of nitrogen dioxide emissions in urban areas followed by stationary sources, including power plants and factories.
- With support from NASA, the researchers used data from a recently launched satellite orbiting the earth called the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument, along with ground measurements of pollution, to estimate nitrogen dioxide levels both before and after COVID-19 shutdowns.
- This method allowed the researchers to zoom in and compare one neighborhood’s pollution level to another in urban areas throughout the U.S. They then used demographic data to compare how nitrogen dioxide levels changed for different population sub-groups.
- While previous studies have documented the inequity in air pollution exposure using models or spatially limited networks of ground monitors, this study relied on both observational and spatially complete satellite data to reveal how these inequities persisted during the unparalleled changes in human activity during COVID-19, the authors said.
- The team found that changes in human activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely less passenger vehicle traffic, resulted in lower nitrogen dioxide levels among the vast majority of urban areas.