A new nationwide study finds that the U.S. made little progress from 2000 to 2010 in reducing relative disparities between people of color and whites in exposure to harmful air pollution emitted by cars, trucks and other combustion sources.

The groundbreaking study led by University of Washington researchers estimated exposure to outdoor concentrations of a transportation-related pollutant -- nitrogen dioxide (NO2) -- in both 2000 and 2010, based on neighborhoods where people live.

It found disparities in NO2 exposure were larger by race and ethnicity than by income, age or education, and that those inequities persisted across the decade.

The researchers developed a first-of-its-kind model that combines satellite and regulatory measurements with land use data to predict pollution at a neighborhood level throughout the United States.

Yet people of color were consistently exposed to more air pollution than their white non-Hispanic counterparts during the decade.

The study concludes that if people of color had breathed the lower NO2 levels experienced by whites in 2010, it would have prevented an estimated 5,000 premature deaths from heart disease among the nonwhite group.

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