Air pollution: Exposure index
Index of exposure to air toxics for cancer and non-cancer risk (combined and separately) calculated using the 2011 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) and the 2015 American Community 5-year summary file. Values range from 1 (lowest risk) to 100 (highest risk) on a national scale. The index value is based on percentile ranking each risk measure across all census tracts in the U.S. and taking the average ranking for each Atlas geography and demographic group. For example, a value of 65 for Latinos in a given region suggests that the average Latino person in that region lives in a census tract that ranks at the 65th percentile nationally in pollution exposure (i.e. has more exposure than 64 percent of U.S. tracts but less exposure than 35 percent of tracts). Note that the NATA includes Diesel Particulate Matter exposure in the non-cancer risk estimates but not in the cancer risk estimates (despite being a known carcinogen). For more information, see the data and methods document. | National Equity Atlas Data & Methods: Technical Documentation
Air pollution exposure index, by poverty status:
Can all residents access clean air?
Why it matters
Healthy neighborhoods are free of pollution and toxins that undermine the safety, health, and well-being of their residents. Neighborhoods with high concentrations of low-income families and people of color are more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards, putting them at higher risk for chronic diseases and premature death.
Grow an equitable economy: Policies to promote healthy environments for all
- Ensure development processes and land use planning produce healthy neighborhood environments
- Require health impact assessments of new developments for potential threats to air quality
- Prioritize green affordable housing near transit and institute safeguards to prevent displacement
- Reduce hazardous chemicals, pesticides and emissions from industrial plants, automobiles, and diesel engines
- Increase community voice and leadership in planning and policymaking
- Grant local government the authority and capacity to take legal action and enforce indoor air quality standards and laws
Comprehensive Review Processes Can Protect Vulnerable Communities
In 2012, the Allegheny County Board of Health (PA) approved new air toxics guidelines and evaluation criteria. Under the old rule, county regulators could only consider the environmental impact of the development under review for permitting. The new process allows the health department's air quality program to examine the cumulative impact of nearby pollution sources when evaluating an application for a new source of toxic air emissions, focusing on the combined environmental burden for nearby communities. Read more.