The Worst Polluters Are In The Most Vulnerable Neighborhoods, Study Finds

Not all polluters are created equal.

Just five percent of industrial polluters account for 90 percent of toxic emissions in the United States, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters last week.

What’s more, these “super polluters” tend to cluster in low-income and minority communities, putting poor people and people of color at an “exponentially elevated risk” from industrial contaminants.

The research reveals what environmental sociologist Dr. Mary Collins calls “a double disproportionality.” The findings show not only that a few polluters are much dirtier than others, but also that racial and socioeconomic inequalities can determine where these “toxic outliers” set up shop.

“The study is linking privilege on the emission side — the super polluter class — to inequality on the problem side,” Collins, a co-author of the study and assistant professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, told The Huffington Post.

It’s no secret that poor and minority communities shoulder a disproportionate burden of environmental harm.

In 1987, a seminal study found that the racial makeup of an area was the single most important factor in determining where a toxic waste facility was located. Since then, researchers have repeatedly shown that the air is often dirtier, the water murkier, and the health outlooks bleaker in poor and minority neighborhoods.

The water contamination disaster in Flint, Michigan — a majority black and largely working-class city — has recently put “environmental justice” and “environmental racism” back in the national spotlight.

And now, the new super-polluter study confirms that a link between a neighborhood’s demographics and pollution still exists, according to Dr. Sacoby Wilson, assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, who was —> Read More