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A hazy, black-and-white city scape.

Study: CA Environmental Regulations Disfavor Minority Communities

A new study from the University of California San Diego's School of Global Policy and Strategy reveals more evidence that California's environmental regulations preferentially protect white, non-Hispanic people from exposure to air pollution, leaving communities of color more at-risk to health burdens. Researchers compared patterns of air pollution both before and during COVID-19 shutdowns and found that Asian, Hispanic and Black communities continued to face higher pollution from emission sources that did not shut down with the in-person economy.

"Income only explains about 15 percent of the disproportionate decrease in air pollution experienced by Asian and Hispanic communities during the shutdown," said researcher Jennifer Burney, the Marshall Saunders Chancellor's Endowed Chair in Global Climate Policy and Research at the School of Global Policy and Strategy. "The COVID shutdown gave us a window into what pollution patterns look like when most of the economy is turned off and it showed that ... income does not explain the racial and ethnic bias in how our economy creates and distributes pollution."

In California, all emissions are subject to regulation: transportation, energy, construction and other industries have to meet strict environmental standards. The health impacts of poor air quality are far-reaching. Polluted air is linked to higher rates of infant and adult mortality, as well as respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

Researchers suggest that the evidence signals a policy failure to confront systemic environmental racism.


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