Changes in Socioeconomic Disparities for Traffic-Related Air Pollution Exposure during Pregnancy over a 20-Year Period in Texas

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JAMA Network Open


Importance: Air pollution presents clear environmental justice issues. However, few studies have specifically examined traffic-related air pollution (TRAP), a source driven by historically racist infrastructure policies, among pregnant individuals, a population susceptible to air pollution effects. How these disparities have changed over time is also unclear but has important policy implications. Objective: To examine changes in TRAP exposure by sociodemographic characteristics among recorded pregnancies over a 20-year period. Design, Setting, and Participants: This population-based birth cohort study used descriptive analysis among pregnant individuals in Texas from 1996 to 2016. All pregnant individuals with valid residential address, socioeconomic, and demographic data were included. Individual-level race and ethnicity, education, and maternal birthplace data were extracted from birth certificates and neighborhood-level household income and historical neighborhood disinvestment (ie, redlining) data were assessed via residential addresses. Data analysis occurred between June 2022 and June 2023. Main Outcomes and Measures: The main outcome, TRAP exposure at residential addresses, was assessed via traffic levels, represented by total and truck-specific vehicle miles traveled (VMT) within 500 m; nitrogen dioxide (no2) concentrations from a spatial-temporal land use regression model (ie, vehicle tailpipe emissions); and National Air Toxic Agency cancer risk index from on-road vehicle emissions. TRAP exposure differences were assessed by sociodemographic indicators over the 1996 to 2016 period. Results: Among 7043598 pregnant people (mean [SD] maternal age, 26.8 [6.1] years) in Texas from 1996 to 2016, 48% identified as Hispanic or Latinx, 4% identified as non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander, 12% identified as non-Hispanic Black, and 36% identified as non-Hispanic White. There were differences in TRAP for pregnant people by all sociodemographic variables examined. The absolute level of these disparities decreased from 1996 to 2016, but the relative level of these disparities increased: for example, in 1996, non-Hispanic Black pregnant individuals were exposed to a mean (SD) 15.3 (4.1) ppb of no2vs 13.5 (4.4) ppb of no2for non-Hispanic White pregnant individuals, compared with 2016 levels of 6.7 (2.4) ppb no2for Black pregnant individuals and 5.2 (2.4) ppb of no2for White pregnant individuals. Large absolute and relative differences in traffic levels were observed for all sociodemographic characteristics, increasing over time. For example, non-Hispanic Black pregnant individuals were exposed to a mean (SD) of 22836 (32844) VMT within 500 m of their homes, compared with 12478 (22870) VMT within 500 m of the homes of non-Hispanic White pregnant individuals in 2016, a difference of 83%. Conclusions and Relevance: This birth cohort study found that while levels of air pollution disparities decreased in absolute terms over the 20 years of the study, relative disparities persisted and large differences in traffic levels remained, requiring renewed policy attention..


Government and Sociology

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