Air Quality, Health & Environmental Justice
Exposure to air pollutants varies from place to place, and there is substantial evidence that some populations are more exposed to higher levels of air pollutants, which is described as “vulnerability”. In addition, some population groups, including those who are very young, elderly, or infirm, may be more strongly affected by exposure to air pollutants, which is termed “susceptibility”. As detailed in Section 3 of the Resource Manual, factors associated with increased vulnerability include race, ethnicity, economic and educational level. Factors associated with increased susceptibility include being young or old, and having pre-existing cardiovascular (heart) or pulmonary (lung) disease. The concept of cumulative risk accounts for vulnerability and susceptibility of populations, and also captures the combined effects of exposures to multiple pollutants from multiple sources. Such factors can be mapped and analyzed at various geographic scales, e.g., census tracts, which allows identification of populations whose health is likely to be more strongly affected by exposure to air pollutants.