Hazardous air in US East Coast puts vulnerable communities at higher risk: Report

New York, June 9 (IANS) As raging wildfires in Canada are continuing to push toxic smoke towards the US East Coast, environmental activists have said that the hazardous air was only exacerbating health risks in vulnerable Black and brown communities, the media reported.

The dangerous air conditions are however, expected to slowly improve over the weekend for millions of people in New York, Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas, CNN said in a report.

The activists have said that for many Black and brown people in low-income communities, air pollution is a problem they already face every day.

According to a 2021 study based on government and census data, people of colour were disproportionately exposed to air pollution from industry, gas-powered vehicles, construction and other sources.

In a separate study, researchers found that Black people breathe 56 per cent more pollution than they cause, whereas White people breathe 17 per cent less population than they make — underscoring the dire environmental disparity that exists across marginalized groups, CNN reported.

Victoria Sanders, a research analyst for the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, said her organisation is encouraging residents to wear masks and avoid going outside, however, she understands that many New Yorkers work front line, essential jobs, And research shows that Black and Latino Americans are overrepresented in essential jobs, such as warehouse workers.

Many Black Americans also have pre-existing conditions related to poor air quality such as asthma, cardiovascular, respiratory and pulmonary issues, CNN quoted Sanders as saying.

Data from the New York Health Department has revealed that asthma emergency room visits for adults and children are the highest in the New York neighbourhoods of East Harlem, South Bronx and Central Harlem, with East Harlem up to 18 times higher than the richer, more predominantly White neighbourhood of Greenwich Village.

“Climate change has led to drier conditions that make for a longer and more active wildfire fire season, and the smoke from these fires can contribute to a wide variety of adverse health impacts, from difficulty breathing and reduced lung function to heart attacks and even premature death,” Annie Carforo, climate justice campaigns manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, told CNN.

“These are the same health issues we see from burning fossil fuels, such as natural gas, but many overlook or downplay this threat because you cannot see or smell this pollution as easily as you can with wildfire smoke.

“And the cumulative impacts of all of this pollution does greater harm to people of colour, especially Black (people), as studies indicate that they are exposed to higher amounts of air pollution,” she added.

–IANS

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