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UCLA study finds air for disadvantaged L.A. residents is more polluted, more toxic

L.A. night horizon

A UCLA-led study found that air from census tracts in communities with the most socioeconomic disadvantages not only contained a greater amount of pollution, but also that the pollution in these areas was more toxic than in other parts of Los Angeles. 

“Overall, people living in these places experience about 65% higher toxicity than people in the most advantaged group,” said Suzanne Paulson, the senior author of the study and a UCLA professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences.

The researchers determined that across all of the areas sampled, 63% of the pollution came from vehicles. Another 20% of the toxicity came from soil dust and 17% was from various other sources — including industrial sites and ports.


The research is the first U.S. study to measure air pollution toxicity against people’s socioeconomic conditions. Jiaqi Shen, the study’s lead author and a UCLA graduate student, said higher levels of toxic pollution compound other public health challenges.

“Disadvantaged areas can face a situation where the environment is worse, and there is also less access to health care and good nutrition, increasing their health risks,” Shen said. It has long been understood that exposure to particles in air pollution contributes to an increased risk for a wide range of cardiovascular, developmental, metabolic and respiratory conditions.

Other study co-authors include UCLA professors Michael Jerrett, Beate Ritz and Yifang Zhu, and current and former graduate and undergraduate students.

 To learn more about this study, go to UCLA Newsroom.


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