Katherine Wolf

Katherine Wolf

A first step to evaluating potential relationships among air pollution emissions, racial residential segregation, and racial disparities in health that may inform efforts to reduce those disparities and further environmental justice in the United States.

2016 Urban Fellow

Research Topic: Environment and Public Health

Faculty Advisor: Michelle Bell

Residential Racial Segregation and Fine Particulate Matter Component Levels in the United States

Exposure to fine particulate matter ≤ 2.5 µm in diameter (PM2.5), a common air pollutant, and residential racial segregation have both been associated with negative health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, lung cancer, low birthweight, preterm birth, and death.  Evidence is mounting that different chemical components of PM2.5 have different health impacts, with some more toxic than others, but no study to date has investigated relationships between residential racial segregation and PM2.5 component levels.  This national study used air pollution monitor data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and race/ethnicity data from the 2010 United States Census to evaluate associations between residential racial segregation and levels of PM2.5 and 14 of its components.  Initial analysis indicates that higher levels of one measure of segregation, a Black-white metropolitan-statistical-area-wide dissimilarity index, were positively associated with concentrations of total PM2.5 and some components such as nitrate, sulfate, and aluminum.  The study also considered two additional measures of segregation, a metropolitan-statistical-area-wide measure of racial isolation and a more local census-tract-wide spatial racial isolation index.  This research provides evidence on whether residential racial segregation is associated with concentrations of PM2.5 and particular PM2.5 components, a first step to evaluating potential relationships among air pollution emissions, racial residential segregation, and racial disparities in health that may inform efforts to reduce those disparities and further environmental justice in the United States.