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Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Published: 16 April 2024

A new Gallup survey has revealed that Black Americans are more likely to express concerns and experience an environmental crisis where they face challenges in relocating. Gallup found that Black Americans are notably more likely than other racial or ethnic groups to express concerns about environmental threats and to experience acute ecological crises.

According to the survey, 53% of Black adults are “very” or “fairly concerned” about exposure to air pollution in their communities. The concern is significantly higher than that among Hispanic adults, at 46%, and white adults, at 35%. Further, concerns about drinking water contamination among Black Americans are 15 percentage points higher than the national average and 20 points higher than among white Americans.

Black adults also reported elevated levels of concern about exposure to land or soil contamination (42%) and exposure to toxic building materials (39%) compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

While urban residents across racial and ethnic groups generally express higher levels of concern about local environmental threats, racial disparities persist across all community types. In suburban areas, for instance, 54% of Black adults express concern about air pollution, compared to 49% of Hispanic adults and 33% of white adults.

The survey also highlighted disparities in experiencing acute environmental crises such as water boil advisories, chemical spills, radiation leaks, and failed residence safety inspections. One-third (34%) of Black Americans reported experiencing one or more such events in the past five years, compared to 28% of Hispanic Americans and 28% of White Americans.

Despite heightened concerns, Black and Hispanic Americans face challenges in relocating to avoid environmental threats. Over half of Black (52%) and Hispanic Americans (55%) stated they could not afford to move, either permanently or temporarily, if harmful pollution or contamination occurred in their local area, compared to 45% of white Americans.

The study authors noted that the findings underscore the significant impact of environmental pollution and contamination on Black and Hispanic communities, leading to temporary or permanent relocations for millions of Americans. “While concerns about exposure to environmental pollution and contamination are similar by race/ethnicity among Americans living in urban centers, they diverge among Americans of different racial/ethnic backgrounds living in towns, suburbs and rural areas,” the study authors wrote.

Organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Lung Association have acknowledged the role of racial and ethnic disparities in exposure to environmental hazards, the authors noted. They have linked those inequalities to higher rates of chronic diseases and mortality among minority populations.

The authors concluded that the elevated concerns among Black and Hispanic Americans are not unfounded but are rooted in real and ongoing health risks, and addressing the disparities remains crucial for ensuring environmental justice and public health equity across the nation.

“The latest findings from the Gallup Center on Black Voices indicate that environmental pollution and contamination are displacing a substantial number of Black Americans,” they asserted, adding that the EPA reported that “historical conditions such as segregation and redlining,” have exposed African Americans to polluted environments.

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