A Comparative Analysis of the Role Race and Socioeconomic Status Play in Chemical Exposure in the United States
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Environmental justice concerns arise when historically underrepresented groups are disproportionately exposed to toxins in the environment. Analysis of environmental biomonitoring data provides a method to analyze chemicals for race/ethnicity and income-related disparity. Using data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2013-2014, biomarker concentrations of 167 chemicals were analyzed. Ten subgroups were defined on the basis of race/ethnicity and income. To examine disparity, geometric mean (GM) concentrations of chemical biomarker for each subgroup were compared to a reference group (i.e., the non-Hispanic white individuals with poverty to income ratio ≥ 2). Of the 167 compounds considered, 95 were detected in >60% of samples and were evaluated for disparity. There was evidence of an environmental justice concern for 42 compounds (GM ratios significantly > 1) in at least one of the identified subgroups. For 21 of these compounds, disparity was present only in the low-income non-Hispanic Black subpopulation. Disparity was particularly pronounced for cotinine, propyl paraben, and dichlorophenol. GM ratios were significantly <1 for 16 chemicals, indicating higher exposure among high-income non-Hispanic whites. Cumulatively, this project demonstrates disproportionate exposure to environmental contaminants by income and race/ethnicity. Results suggest that the low-income non-Hispanic Black subpopulation experiences much higher instances of disparity. Comparing with prior research, results also suggest that disparity in environmental exposure may be increasing.
CitationEarly, Tara (2019). A Comparative Analysis of the Role Race and Socioeconomic Status Play in Chemical Exposure in the United States. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18446.
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Rights for Collection: Nicholas School of the Environment