In January 2016 attention across the U.S. turned to Flint, Michigan, a poor, majority-minority community that has been poisoned by toxic drinking water polluted with lead. This tragedy of structural inequality resonates with many who study environmental inequality as an example of how poor communities and those that are majority non-white experience disproportionate levels of dangerous toxic pollution. But to date evidence to support this trend has been mostly anecdotal and small-scale in nature.
A new study that relies on big data to test this claim has revealed it to be true. The study, titled “Linking ‘toxic outliers’ to environmental justice communities,” and published in Environmental Research Letters in January 2016, found that across the U.S., the worst toxic polluters are mostly located in communities experiencing significant structural oppression–those that are primarily poor, and those composed of people of color.