Research shows that where a person lives can be a powerful indicator of their health outcomes, and that includes proximity to highways and their vehicle emissions. There are a wide variety of environmental and societal factors that lead to the makeup of someone’s health, known as the “social determinants of health” (SDOH). SDOH are the conditions in the environment where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Understanding these conditions is critical to grasping the many paths through which e-mobility policy (or the lack thereof) can influence health outcomes.
According to the Economic Innovation Group, about 17 percent of the U.S. population lives in places with limited opportunities for education, good housing and employment, and more than 1 in 6 people in the United States live under chronic stress. Regardless of socioeconomic status, almost 70% of Black residents in the U.S. live in communities that are overexposed to pollution. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Center for Environmental Assessment showed that, compared with the general population, BIPOC and low-income residents, respectively, were exposed to 54 and 35 percent more particulate matter air pollution, the especially dangerous type of air pollution that is small enough to lodge in lung tissue.
Aside from these structural factors, the environment in which people live is intimately related to health outcomes. Prolonged exposure to air pollution leads to increased respiratory distress, particularly in underserved or BIPOC communities. These communities are often disproportionately impacted. They are overburdened and over-exposed to worse air pollution than other areas — a burden associated with everything from pediatric asthma and inhibited child development to increased cancer risk.
It is vital that the public health impacts of our transportation system are incorporated into e-mobility policies and programs. EVHybridNoire policy recommendations include the following: