According to Scientific Reports, public housing is disproportionately found in areas where there are high levels of particulate matter. The study notes that Black, Hispanic, and low-income residents make up the majority of the population in these highly-polluted public housing areas.
Three percent of all U.S. deaths and 22 percent of deaths from environmental causes are due to exposure to particulate matter, according to Timothy W. Collins, a Geology professor at the University of Utah.
“Our study is especially relevant today given the fact that the U.S. faces a severe housing crisis, as affordable housing construction has not accommodated a growing financially insecure population,” Collins said in a statement. “Access to safe shelter is a basic need that remains unmet for many.”
Jayajit Chakraborty, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at The University of Texas-El Paso, said the findings mark the first nationwide study to showcase the disparity in exposure to air pollutants. According to Chakraborty, previous studies didn't explore whether public housing developments were predominately found in areas with greater levels of air pollution.
“These findings represent an important starting point for future research and emphasize the urgent need to identify gaps in environmental, public health, and housing policies that have contributed to higher air pollution exposures among public housing residents,” Chakraborty said.