Sammy Roth, a writer for the LA Times, recently published an article discussing a study that found a correlation between air pollution exposure and driving habits in Los Angeles.
The study found that those who drive more tend to be exposed to less air pollution while those who drive less tend to be exposed to more pollution.
This pattern was found to be particularly prominent in communities of color, which have historically been impacted by racist policies in the city’s infrastructure planning.
Roth spoke with USC Sol Price School of Public Policy professor Geoff Boeing, who explained that the history of Los Angeles County’s low-income communities of color being torn apart to make way for freeways has had a lasting impact on the city’s racial inequalities.
Today, many residents of the county’s whiter, more affluent neighborhoods commute through lower-income Black and Latino neighborhoods bisected by freeways.
The study, titled “Local Inequities in the Relative Production of and Exposure to Vehicular Air Pollution in Los Angeles,” explicitly defines its findings in terms of race.
The researchers found that tracts whose residents drive less and tracts with a less-White population tend to be exposed to more air pollution. Commuters from majority-White tracts also disproportionately drive through non-White tracts, compared to the inverse.
Roth suggests several solutions to mitigate this injustice, including ending the sale of most gasoline vehicles and allowing more apartment construction in wealthier neighborhoods.
However, the study faced criticism on Twitter, with some calling it racist and others questioning the validity of its claims. It is clear that the issue of environmental racism in Los Angeles is a complex one, rooted in the city’s history of discriminatory policies and infrastructure planning.
While there may be differing opinions on the validity of the study’s findings and proposed solutions, it is important to acknowledge the existence of these inequalities and work towards addressing them in a meaningful way.