OP/ED: Minorities Breathing In Toxins From The Rich


PSA for air pollution. Picture edited by Andrea Saldana.

For years minorities living in low-income communities have been breathing in toxins and deadly chemicals that have been causing a wide range of fatal diseases. This silent killer has been caused by large corporations, billionaires, which are mostly from and made by white people who are in control, which is why the exigence for this issue has turned “minor” and is often ignored and pushed aside by the thickness of their wallets. However, researchers and people who are personally affected by this are speaking up against this tyranny and want to put an end to this clean air privilege. 

Let’s look into where this pollution comes from and how is it getting to these neighborhoods. A study published on the journal PNAS adds a new perspective into the issue relating to the consumption of these items or activities that the rich are doing that is causing a heavy amount of pollution. They state that, “while we tend to think of factories or power plants as the source of pollution, those polluters wouldn’t exist without consumer demand for their products.” They also discovered that, “air pollution is disproportionately caused by white Americans’ consumption of goods and services, but disproportionately inhaled by black and Hispanic Americans.” A six year study conducted by an engineering professor Jason Hill at the University of Minnesota, the project he led investigated how polluted the air was at certain locations, what communities were exposed to pollution, and the health effects it has on the people living there. The result came out to be that, “The researchers generated maps of where different emitters, like agriculture or construction, caused PM2.5 pollution. Coal plants produced pockets of pollution in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, while agricultural emissions were concentrated in the Midwest and California’s central valley…”

An environmentalist named, Hilton Kelley, has first-hand experience living in a heavily polluted area, in which being Port Arthur, Texas. He described the smell as “rotting eggs”, which were the emissions that were being releasing sulfur into the air of his neighborhood growing up as a child. He also added that this smell was considered “normal” and mentioned that “we didn’t think twice about it because that’s how everything was.” He didn’t realize this scent as unnatural until he came back to Port Arthur after he was in the war in 1984, off the bat he noticed how bad the environment was and the effect it had on the community. A lot of residents had cancer, lung disease, and many other sicknesses coming from these “rotten egg” like emissions. Most of these toxins were deliberately coming from the large amount of construction and remodeling that was happening in the cities which was all controlled by very wealthy people, who didn’t acknowledge what they were using to build these buildings was killing and infecting those living there. 

Minorities contribute a lot less to the pollution that wealthy people put in, and are not taking responsibility for it and handing it over to those who have done nothing to deserve it. Therefore, stricter laws have to be implemented as to what chemicals should be used and what can be allowed into the air. Also there should be higher fines and taxes for causing air pollution, since it is clear that it’s a companies choice to add sulfur, benzene, and other toxic chemicals into the air, when that really shouldn’t be the case and also be responsible for the high-death rates caused by these large corporations. Soon justice will be served!