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Air pollution and equity
Over the past decade, an ever increasing number of epidemiological studies have linked urban air pollution, particularly particulate matter, to increased risk for morbidity and mortality.1,2 These new findings have led to revised air pollution standards for the United States and they will probably have similar consequences in other countries around the world. This new evidence on adverse health effects of air pollution has also motivated research to identify those groups within the population who may be at increased risk from exposure, for example: infants, persons with chronic heart and lung disease, and the elderly population.3 This issue of the journal includes three papers that address socioeconomic status and vulnerability to air pollution.
This is not a new topic for scientific investigation or for public health concern. The environmental justice movement began more than two decades ago in the United States, originally related to the locating of toxic waste landfills in minority communities.4 More recently, urban air pollution has surfaced as a significant international environmental justice concern because of the large concentration of minority and low income residents living in urban environments with unhealthful air quality.5 These persons often have unhealthy housing and significant exposures to indoor air pollution as well.
Adding to the public health concern regarding the disproportionate exposure of minority and low income populations to high levels of urban air pollution is the recognition that these groups often …