Studying Air Pollution in a High-Traffic Area Near a Historically Black University

A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published in February 2018 in the American Journal of Public Health found that African-Americans have a 54 percent higher health burden than the overall population, directly caused, in part, by the impact of particulate air emissions on minority neighborhoods. Air pollution has been shown to produce a greater risk of cardiovascular and other diseases. Many HBCUs are located in the urban areas that may have high levels of air pollution.

A study led by John Bang, a professor of environmental health at historically Black North Carolina Central University in Durham, found high levels of air pollution in neighborhoods close to the university. Dr. Bang and his team took nearly, 1,500 air samples to detect ultrafine particulate matter in the air. These air pollutants are primarily carbon compounds from motor vehicle exhaust.

The researchers found that the highest levels of air pollution were during the morning rush hour during winter months. Winter months probably have more automobile traffic compared to summer when people would be more likely to walk or bike. And increased use of stoves, fireplaces, and other devices used for warmth were more likely to be in use. The study also found that air temperature, wind speed, humidity, and weather were factors that impacted the level of air pollution surrounding the university.

The results were presented at the North Carolina Breathe Conference at Wake Forest University earlier this month.

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