Image of playground near pollution source from factory
July 30, 2020

Air pollution is more damaging to the cardiovascular health of adolescents living in poverty-stricken areas than to adolescents living in wealthier areas, according to a new study published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

Edmond Shenassa, associate professor of family science and co-author Andrew Williams PhD '17, assistant professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences, explain that air pollution and the stresses of living in poor areas activate the same pathogenic physiologic responses. When both exposures occur at the same time, the damage to cardiovascular health can go beyond the separate effects of each exposure. 

Since residents of poverty-stricken areas may lack the political capital to navigate the legal system and push back against environmental and structural health threats, public health efforts to promote environmental justice must occur at the neighborhood-level, Shenassa and Williams wrote.  

These efforts include local initiatives to improve neighborhoods' housing conditions and housing availability, neighborhoods’ safety, walkability, public transportation, access to green spaces as well as enforcement of current fuel efficiency standards, advocacy for clean energy policies, and zoning of combustion-related polluting sites away from residential areas. 

The study was published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

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Edmond Shenassa