Geography & Environment Publications

Racial Gradients of Ambient Air Pollution Exposure in Hamilton, Canada

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Environment and Planning A

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Environmental justice research in the United States has coalesced around the notion that visible-minority status, along with socioeconomic position (SEP), conditions exposure to environmental health hazards. In the context of long-standing debates over Canada - USA urban differences, we address the question of whether racial gradients exist in air pollution across Hamilton, Canada. Monitored air quality data are spatially interpolated with a kriging algorithm. These interpolated exposures are statistically correlated with 1996 data at the census tract scale, with the aid of multivariate and spatial techniques. The proportion of Latin-Americans in a census tract is positively associated with pollution exposure, even after control for many SEP variables. In contrast, Asian-Canadians are negatively associated with air pollution, and Black-Canadians show no clear correlation at all. Thus, the faces of environmental racism in Canada seem more varied and nuanced than in the USA. Given the immigrant basis of visible minorities in Canada, we argue that Hamilton (and the Canadian city generally) may represent new dimensions of environmental racism driven by economic status at time of entry. In drawing on similar findings in the USA and the United Kingdom, the authors conclude that environmental racism appears present in all jurisdictions, but that the nature and extent of disproportionate exposure differ between countries.


Dr. Michael Buzzelli is currently a faculty member at The University of Western Ontario.

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