Black Americans in Louisiana are disproportionately dying from COVID-19, and environmental disparities may be contributing to this injustice. While Black communities in Louisiana's industrialized regions (e.g., Cancer Alley, Calcasieu Parish) have been overburdened with pollution for decades, this disparity has not been evaluated by using recent data. Here, we explore statewide relationships among air pollution burden, race, COVID-19 death rates, and other health/socioeconomic factors. Measures of pollution burden included satellite-derived particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations and health risks from toxic air pollution (i.e., respiratory hazard [RH] and immunological hazard [IH], estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency). In addition, we evaluate changes in emissions and ambient concentrations of fine PM(2.5)in Louisiana over the past few decades. Our overall goal was to better understand Louisiana's burden of air pollution in the context of COVID-19. By all measures, a higher burden of air pollution was associated with larger percentages of Black residents and increased unemployment across Louisiana census tracts. Across parishes, higher COVID-19 death rates were associated with increased RH and IH and larger percentages of Black residents. These associations were not driven by diabetes, obesity, smoking, age, or poverty. Industrial sources comprised more of Louisiana's PM(2.5)in 2017 versus 1990, as vehicle contributions declined 75% whereas industrial emissions remained about the same overall (despite variation in the interim). Ambient concentrations of PM(2.5)decreased statewide from 2000 to 2015, but subsequently increased in south Louisiana, concurrent with an upward trend in industrial emissions. Our findings highlight the critical need to address Louisiana's pollution disparities and to recognize air pollution exposure as a risk factor for COVID-19.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Terrell, K. A., & James, W. (2020). Racial Disparities in Air Pollution Burden and COVID-19 Deaths in Louisiana, USA, in the Context of Long-Term Changes in Fine Particulate Pollution. ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE https://doi.org/10.1089/env.2020.0021