2003 volume 35(5) pages 909 – 929
doi:10.1068/a35240

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Mitchell G, Dorling D, 2003, "An environmental justice analysis of British air quality" Environment and Planning A 35(5) 909 – 929

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An environmental justice analysis of British air quality

Gordon Mitchell, Danny Dorling

Received 6 September 2002; in revised form 2 December 2002

Abstract. This paper presents the results of the first national study of air quality in Britain to consider the implications of its distribution across over ten thousand local communities in terms of potential environmental injustice. We consider the recent history of the environmental justice debate in Britain, Europe, and the USA and, in the light of this, estimate how one aspect of air pollution, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, affects different population groups differentially across Britain. We also estimate the extent to which people living in each community in Britain contribute towards this pollution, with the aid of information on the characteristics of the vehicles they own. We find that, although community NOxemission and ambient NO2 concentration are strongly related, the communities that have access to fewest cars tend to suffer from the highest levels of air pollution, whereas those in which car ownership is greatest enjoy the cleanest air. Pollution is most concentrated in areas where young children and their parents are more likely to live and least concentrated in areas to which the elderly tend to migrate. Those communities that are most polluted and which also emit the least pollution tend to be amongst the poorest in Britain. There is therefore evidence of environmental injustice in the distribution and production of poor air quality in Britain. However, the spatial distribution of those who produce and receive most of that pollution have to be considered simultaneously to see this injustice clearly.

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