Most Black Students in Michigan Attend High-Pollution Schools

Most Black Students in Michigan Attend High-Pollution Schools

A new study shows that minority students in Michigan are more likely than whites to attend schools choked with pollution—and the consequences are frightening.

Published May 16, 2011

On Earth Day last month we told you that African-Americans should be particularly concerned about environmental issues. Not only is the world in general in trouble due to pollution and the subsequent climate change, but Blacks especially have been hard hit by poor and dangerous environmental practices in the past. Today, sadly, there’s even more evidence to support our earlier claims.


A new study says that a majority of Michigan’s African-American and Latino students attend schools in the most polluted areas of the state—not just some, the majority. Published in Health Affairs, the research was initiated by a team at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources. They found that almost 100 percent of the air pollution found near schools came from one or more of the following chemicals: diisocyanates, manganese, sulfuric acid, molybdenum trioxide, lead, cobalt and glycol ethers. Researchers say that some of the chemicals “might directly affect the brain,” meaning the last place they should be is next to houses of education.


The UM team can’t yet directly link the pollution with academic aptitude, but one thing worth noting is that Michigan schools in areas with the most pollution also had the poorest attendance and the highest proportions of students who failed to meet state testing requirements. Though the team didn’t test for asthma, I’d be willing to guess that students at these schools also had higher rates of asthma than their counterparts in other parts of the state.


“Our findings underscore the need to expand the concept of environmental justice to include children as a vulnerable population," says the study. "There is a need for proactive school policies that will protect children from exposure to unhealthy levels of air pollution and other environmental hazards."


Besides that, let this information once again serve as a reminder to Black parents and children that keeping America clean and healthy isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a self-preservation tool. You’ve got to fight against corporate entities that would carelessly poison your community with factory smoke, or else you can quite literally be choked out.


(Photo: Mashkov Yuri/Landov)  

Written by Cord Jefferson


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