Even the Air is Racist

Environmental racism is harming Black communities

Jeffrey Kass
Published in
4 min readMay 1


Plant at Mississippi river bank. Louisiana, USA
Image: Shutterstock/Nekto Fadeev

According to extensive research over the past three decades, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color are disproportionately affected by exposure to air pollution and toxic substances.

If that weren’t enough, federal, state, and local governments provide less money to these communities to address such problems.

It should be obvious, but the reason this is critically important is because air pollution from fossil fuel harms literally every organ in the body. A recent study found that particulate matter caused tens of thousands of deaths across the U.S. in 2020.

The microscopic solids and liquid droplets in particulate matter — invisible to the naked eye — can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Some of the smaller particles go deep into the lungs and some may even get into the bloodstream.

Researchers found that Black and Latino communities have disproportionately higher levels of particulate matter than white communities.

High lead levels also can seriously harm children. A 2021 study showed Black children averaged the highest levels of lead in their blood. Significantly more than white children.

A 2019 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences warned that poor air quality is the largest environmental health risk in the U.S. And the kicker is the poor air quality is “disproportionately caused by whites, but disproportionately inhaled by Black and Latino minorities.”

Latino and Black Americans are exposed to over five times more pollution than they produce. White Americans are exposed to 17% less pollution than they produce.

Oh, and just in case you’re one of those people who denies systemic racism and thinks everything is based on economics and never race, poor White communities suffer far less from pollution and other environmental-related issues than Black communities.

Recent studies of mortality in the Medicaid population found that those who live in predominately Black communities suffered greater risk of premature death from particle pollution than those who live in poor communities that are predominately white.



Jeffrey Kass
Writer for

A Medium Top Writer on Racism, Diversity, Education, History and Parenting | Speaker | Award-Winning Author | Latest Book: Black Batwoman V. White Jesus | Dad