More than 1 million African Americans live within a half mile of a natural gas facility. This proximity is associated with an increased risk for negative health effects such as asthma, headaches, nose bleeds, and throat and eye irritation caused by air pollutants. African Americans are 75% more likely to live in a neighborhood next to a polluting facility or “fence-line” community than other racial groups.
In 2017, Lesley Fleishman of the Clean Air Task Force and Marcus Franklin of the NAACP reviewed the impact pollution from oil and gas facilities has on the health of African Americans living in fence-line communities. Using data collected by the Clean Air Task Force and the U.S. Census Bureau, they show that an estimated 138,000 African American children suffer annually from asthma attacks caused by oil and gas pollution. This makes up 18.5% of the total 750,000 asthma attacks experienced by children nationally and contributes to the 101,000 school days African American children miss each year.
The map shows the areas of the country where children are at highest-risk of asthma attacks associated with pollution exposure. The larger the circle, the more children affected. Black children in Louisiana, Georgia, New Jersey, Illinois, Tennessee, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas experienced asthma attacks most frequently. Metropolitan areas around Dallas, Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York, Houston, and Chicago recorded over 3,000 asthma attacks per year. The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan areas had the highest number of attacks (8,059). Exposure to pollution and asthma cases can be prevented through investments in renewable energy, better residential zoning policies, and air pollution monitoring. Activism in communities along the fence-line will also be critical to tackling the environmental injustice being experienced in communities of color.
Feature image: Fumes Across the Fence-Line, The Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Oil & Gas Facilities on African American Communities, NAACP and Clean Air Taskforce.