Neighborhood disparities in air pollution exposure at the US-Mexico border: The intersection of race/ethnicity and older age

Authors: Colby M. Child*, Center for Natural & Technological Hazards, University of Utah, Timothy W. Collins, Center for Natural & Technological Hazards, University of Utah, Sara E. Grineski, Center for Natural & Technological Hazards, University of Utah
Topics: Environmental Justice, Urban and Regional Planning, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: Air pollution, hazards, environmental justice, older age, race, ethnicity
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 41
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Environmental justice (EJ) studies have documented greater air pollution risks based on Hispanic/Latinx vs. non-Hispanic White racial/ethnic status. However, EJ research has not focused on the intersection of racial/ethnic and older age statuses in shaping unequal exposures. Additionally, EJ research has focused on measures of chronic rather than acute air pollution. We address those limitations by examining intersectional effects of racial/ethnic and older age statuses on chronic and acute exposures to fine particular matter (PM2.5) air pollution in US metropolitan areas along the US-Mexico border, contexts with well-documented PM2.5 problems. The study area includes metropolitan census tracts within 100km of the US-Mexico border. We use data from the American Community Survey (2012-2016) to construct sociodemographic variables. We construct chronic and acute measures of PM2.5 exposure from the USEPA Downscaler (2012-2016). Using multivariable generalized estimating equations, we test for differences in PM2.5 exposures between census tracts with higher vs. lower proportions of older Hispanic residents and older non-Hispanic White residents. We find that as the proportion of the Hispanic population >64 years of age increases, chronic and acute measures of PM2.5 significantly increase. In contrast, as the proportion of the White population >64 years of age increases, chronic and acute measures of PM2.5 do not increase significantly. Findings illuminate the intersection of racial/ethnic and older age statuses in shaping air pollution inequalities and may inform public health responses that seek to mitigate the impacts of air pollution exposures for older Hispanic/Latinx people along the US-Mexico border.

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