Air pollution is a serious problem in communities of color, as poor air quality can contribute to a host of health problems. According to a 2002 Environmental Protection Agency report, 71 percent of African-Americans live in counties that violate federal air pollution standards, compared to 58 percent of the white population. Breathing in too much bad air can not only result in higher blood lead levels and eye problems, but also asthma, which is triggered by high quantities of particulate matter. Blacks are three times more likely to die from asthma-related problems than whites. Also, poor air quality increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other serious respiratory problems.
Most communities of color live near power plants, oil refineries or waste management facilities. Industrial waste that is not disposed of appropriately (or legally) can get into the water system and land used for housing and agriculture. A report called “Air of Injustice: African Americans and Power Plant Pollution” said 68 percent of Blacks live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, as compared to 56 percent of whites.