EL PASO, TX (KTSM) – According to its website, Scientific reports is the sixth most cited scientific journal in the world and included an international study led by a researcher from UTEP.
The results of the study show that residents of public housing in the United States experience higher levels of air pollution.
Jayajit Chakraborty, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, said the article “Differences in Exposure to Air Pollution in Public Housing in the United States” is the first nationwide study to show differences in exposure to fine dust particles on residents in public housing across the country.
Chakraborty, founder of UTEP’s Socio-Environmental and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory (SEGA), has been studying social inequalities in the distribution of environmental pollution and health hazards for more than 20 years. He said previous research had not examined whether public housing buildings were located in areas that had higher outdoor air pollution. A large percentage of the nation’s public housing residents include minorities, the elderly, people with disabilities or existing health problems, and others who do not have the resources to deal with environmental pollution.
The UTEP researcher said the study, published in Scientific Reports, showed that public housing in the United States was significantly over-represented in neighborhoods with larger outdoor dust particles, a small solids inhalation mixture and / or liquid droplets made from various chemicals that are about 3% of the diameter of human hair. He said their study also found that public housing with high levels of dust particles had a significantly higher percentage of residents who were black, Hispanic, disabled and / or extremely low-income.
“These findings are an important starting point for future research and highlight the urgent need to identify gaps in environmental, public health and housing policies that have contributed to higher exposure to air pollution among public housing residents,” Chakraborty said. .
The UTEP researcher has worked with longtime associates at the University of Utah, Dr. Timothy W. Collins, Professor of Geology, and Sarah E. Grinesky, PhD, Professor of Sociology and Environmental Research. Both worked at UTEP from 2006 to 2017. The other member of the team is Jacob J. Aun, a graduate of UTEP in sociology. The team began collecting data in July 2021, completed the analysis in January 2022, wrote the article last spring and sent it to Scientific Reports in April 2022.
Collins said exposure to dust particles could seriously affect human health. He said outdoor exposure was responsible for 3% of all deaths and 22% of environmental deaths nationwide.
“Our study is particularly relevant today, given the fact that the United States is facing a severe housing crisis because affordable housing has not sheltered a growing financially insecure population,” Collins said. “Access to safe shelter is a basic need that remains unmet for many.
Grineski said she has been concerned about the effects of air pollution on public housing residents for more than 15 years.
“I was excited to continue this study with Dr. Chakraborty to quantify this problem nationally,” Grineski said. “Public housing is an extremely important and necessary public good in the United States. However, we need to do better in terms of improving the quality of the environment for residents.
Chakraborty said the next step in this study is to examine the link between public housing and sources of pollution such as Superfund sites and industrial production facilities. He also wants to study how natural disasters affect residents of public housing.
For now, Chakraborty said he was pleased that the prestigious scientific journal accepted the team’s article.
“I am honored to have my research published in Scientific Reports,” Chakraborty said. This was his first article in the journal Nature portfolio. “I hope this article reaches a large number of readers and draws attention to the environmental issues facing public housing residents in the United States.”
Aun, the student researcher, said he was excited to be part of the team. He helped download and analyze the data and helped Chakraborty edit the article.
“It was a great learning experience,” Aun said. “I am very proud of the work we have done and how it contributes to identifying social differences in exposure to air pollution.”
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