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Redlined neighborhoods see more air pollution that can cause lung cancer

Neighborhoods that were subject to redlining in the 1930s tend to have higher levels of air pollution many decades later, a new study has found. Redlining was the discriminatory mortgage appraisal practice used by the federal government after the Great Depression, drawing lines around Black and immigrant areas that denoted them as risky sites for mortgages.

Researchers looked at the levels of two pollutants: nitrogen dioxide (a gas associated with vehicular exhaust and industrial facilities) and tiny particles known as PM 2.5.

The health impacts of air pollution are serious: The air we breathe kills thousands of Americans every year. Among the effects of nitrogen dioxide pollution are childhood asthma, heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.

The difference between the air quality in neighborhoods is significant — and noticeable. In terms of nitrogen dioxide measured in the cities in this study, “the D-grade neighborhoods on average experience 50% greater pollution than the A-grades. And in some cities, it’s more than double,” says Joshua Apte, a researcher at the University of California Berkeley.

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