The purpose of this study was to examine rates of air
pollution between rural and urban census tracts. In
addition, urban-rural disparities in exposure to polluted
air across Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-defined
regions were examined. Air quality monitoring station
data from the EPA's Air Quality System web portal for the
years 2000 to 2020 were used to examine variations of
particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) and ozone levels in the
air at the census tract level.
Rural census tracts had significantly lower levels of
PM2.5 than urban tracts in the majority of EPA regions in
all years investigated (2010, 2014, and 2019).
Census tracts with a larger proportion of racial
minoritized residents had significantly higher levels of
PM2.5 in all years investigated.
Census tracts with lower educational attainment had
significantly higher levels of PM2.5 in all years
Rurality was generally not significantly associated
with ozone levels in all years investigated (2010, 2014,
and 2019). However, there were three exceptions to this
rule: ozone was significantly higher in rural areas in
region 9, in 2010; significantly lower in rural areas
in region 8, in 2014; and significantly lower in rural areas
in region 1, in 2019.
In all three years evaluated, recreation counties had
significantly lower levels of ozone than nonspecialized
counties (reference level), counties with lower education
had significantly higher levels of ozone, and counties
with higher retirement had significantly higher levels of
Rural and Minority Health Research Center
Daniel Kilpatrick, Jeremy Cothran, Stella Self, Dwayne Porter, Peiyin Hung, Elizabeth Crouch, Nicholas Yell, Jan Eberth