MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – New reports from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health reveal that air pollution disproportionately affects low-income communities, people of color, people with disabilities and the uninsured.
The reports, titled “Life and Breath: Metro” and “Life and Breath: Greater Minnesota,” looked at the health effects of air pollution in 2015, which is the most recent year that data has analyzed in the Twin Cities area and Greater Minnesota. regions, such as Duluth, Rochester and St. Cloud.
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According to the report, air pollution played a role in 10% of all Twin Cities subway deaths that year, as well as nearly 500 hospitalizations and emergency room visits for heart and lung problems. Air pollution is estimated to play a role in 8-10% of deaths in the Greater Minnesota cities studied.
This is happening despite improvements in air quality in Minnesota over the past few decades.
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In all of the cities studied, communities facing “discrimination, barriers to access, and structural racism” had the highest estimated rates of air pollution-related death and illness. For example, areas with the highest percentage of residents of color had more than five times the rate of air pollution-related asthma ER visits compared to areas with more white residents.
“The burden of air pollution is heavier on some communities in our cities than others, contributing to preventable deaths and worsening heart and lung disease,” said Commissioner Dr Brooke Cunningham. deputy of the Office of Health Equity of the MDH. “It seems that we all breathe the same quality air. The differences are not always visible. These “invisibilities” explain why it is so difficult to tackle the structural causes of health inequalities. This report provides crucial information to move forward towards a healthier Minnesota for all.
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State officials say reducing air pollution is part of the MDH and MPCA’s overall strategy to address inequalities in health care, housing and other social factors that affect the health. Findings from the reports, along with other analysis and community conversations, will help determine where resources are directed to reduce pollution and address health inequities.