Lead Emissions and Population Vulnerability in the Detroit Metropolitan Area, Michigan 2006-2013: A Spatial and Temporal Analysis

Authors: Heather Moody*, Siena Heights University, Sue C. Grady, Michigan State University
Topics: Environmental Science, Medical and Health Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Lead emissions; lead deposition; environmental justice; AERMOD; Detroit; Michigan; USA
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Oak Alley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Background: The purpose of this research is to geographically model airborne lead emission concentrations and total lead deposition in the Detroit Metropolitan Area (DMA) from 2006-2013. Further, this study characterizes the racial and socioeconomic composition of recipient neighborhoods and estimates the potential for IQ loss of children residing there. Methods: Lead emissions were modeled from emitting facilities in the DMA using AERMOD. Local segregation indices were calculated, controlling for poverty. Global and local bivariate spatial autocorrelation measurements were used to assess modeled emissions and increasing segregation levels. Results: Polluting lead facilities were primarily located in and moving into highly black segregated neighborhoods regardless of poverty levels—a phenomenon known as environmental racism. The findings from this research showed three years of elevated airborne emission concentrations in these neighborhoods to equate to a predicted 1.0 to 3.0 reduction in IQ points for children living there. Across the DMA there are many areas where annual lead deposition was substantially higher than recommended for aquatic (rivers, lakes, etc.) and terrestrial (forests, dunes, etc.) ecosystems. These lead levels, result in decreased reproductive and growth rates in plants and animals, and neurological deficits in vertebrates. Conclusions: This lead-hazard and neighborhood context assessment will inform future childhood lead exposure studies and potential health consequences in the DMA.

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