State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Historically Redlined Neighborhoods Are Burdened by Excess Oil and Gas Wells

Oil well with a home in the background
Photo: iStock/Gary Kavanagh

Across the United States, historically redlined neighborhoods that scored lowest in racially discriminatory maps drawn by the government-sponsored Home-Owners Loan Corporation in the 1930s had twice the density of oil and gas wells than comparable neighborhoods that scored highest, according to a new study. These wells likely contribute to disproportionate pollution and related health problems in redlined neighborhoods.

The study — authored by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, and University of California San Francisco — is published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology.

Oil and gas wells expose residents to air and water pollution, noise, and other sources of stress that can increase the risk of many types of disease: cardiovascular disease, impaired lung function, anxiety, depression, preterm birth, and impaired fetal growth. An estimated 17 million Americans live within one mile of at least one active oil or gas well.

“Our study adds to the evidence that structural racism in federal policy is associated with the disproportionate siting of oil and gas wells in marginalized neighborhoods,” says senior author Joan Casey, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman School. “These exposure disparities have implications for community environmental health, as the presence of active and inactive wells contribute to ongoing air pollution.”

Read the rest of the story on the Mailman website.

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