NIH Research Festival
Introduction: Most evaluations of industrial pollution focus on air emissions. Little is known about who is
exposed to carcinogenic waste stored in landfills. We evaluated patterns of population exposure to
carcinogenic industrial emissions to land areas in census tracts across the United States (US).
Methods: We used data from the US Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory and
the 2010 Census. We identified non-air emissions (e.g., landfills and surface impoundments) of 21
known carcinogens as classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Population
characteristics included race and ethnicity (e.g., Hispanic, non-Hispanic White, African American) and
socioeconomic indicators (e.g., neighborhood deprivation and family poverty). We used multinomial,
population density-adjusted logistic regression models to estimate odds ratios (ORs)
and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) comparing the highest category of emissions
quintiles: Q5) to the referent group of zero emissions (non-exposed).
Results: In 2018, 273 million pounds of carcinogens (e.g., asbestos, arsenic, nickel, polychlorinated
biphenyls) were stored in landfills and surface impoundments in 1,807 tracts (estimated population: 7.6
million people). The proportion of African American and Hispanic population in the tract was associated
with higher odds of having the highest land emissions (Q5), whereas the pattern was inverse for White (
and Asian populations. Tracts with the highest quintile of carcinogenic land emissions had lower median
household incomes and higher deprivation scores.
Conclusion: This assessment highlights that carcinogenic emissions are not evenly distributed among the
population. Research is needed to determine if these emissions play a role in cancer risk and disparities.
Scientific Focus Area: ACI/IRS
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