WATCH: Video asks if air pollution is racial state violence

Reader in Law and Co-Director for Research on Race and Law at Birkbeck School of Law, Dr. Nadine El-Enany’s recent lecture at UCL Faculty of Laws laid bare the uneven impact of air pollution on the most disadvantaged. 


 Over recent months, Air Quality News has reported extensively on research showing that toxic atmospheres do not effect us all equally, and often those contributing the least – through things like vehicle ownership – are those paying the highest price. 

people holding brown wooden signage during daytime

Back in August, it was The Runnymede Trust identifying so-called ‘air pollution sacrifice areas’. predominantly home to minority ethnic communities, which have significantly worse air quality than comparably sized areas primarily occupied by white British populations. Among the causes are closer proximity to major arterial roads, motorways, and incineration facilities. 

Last month, those demographics were once again shown to be the biggest air quality victims by Friends of the Earth, which showed that people of colour were three times more likely to live in high air pollution areas of London compared with white British.

The study also found that 924 schools in the UK capital were recording levels of pollutants at least double the current WHO guidelines, with 1m under-18s and 750,000 under-12s calling these districts home. With that in mind, it’s no surprise to then read that half of all childhood asthma hospitalisations in London between 2021 and 2022 were among Black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds. This compares to 28% whose heritage is listed as white British. 

All of which shows there is an urgent need to consider air pollution not just from an environmental and health perspective, but also social justice. As such, we’re delighted to present a recent UCL lecture by Dr. Nadine El-Enany, Reader in Law and Co-Director for Research on Race and Law at Birkbeck School of Law, in which she discusses her own ongoing research which positions air pollution as a form of racialised state violence. At a time when increasing numbers of national and regional governments are finding themselves in court as a result of air pollution, this is a subject policymakers at all levels can’t afford to ignore. 

Image: James Eades


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