Medical Technology

Map Pinpoints America's Hot Spots of Air Pollution

A new report and interactive map show in precise detail how cancer-causing chemicals are released by multiple industrial facilities in some neighborhoods, creating zones of dangerous air.

What to know:

  • An estimated 256,000 Americans are being exposed to excess cancer risk from air pollution beyond what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers an acceptable threshold, according to a new map and analysis.

  • The map, created by investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica using an EPA modeling tool, shows how toxic chemicals released by industrial facilities spread into neighborhoods across the country.

  • It identifies more than 1000 hot spots with high levels of chemicals in the air known to cause cancer, like benzene and ethylene oxide.

  • The majority of the 20 hot spots with the highest risk levels were in Texas. In census areas where residents are predominantly Black, estimated cancer risk from air pollution was more than double that of areas where the majority of residents are White.

  • Although the map was created using an EPA tool, the federal agency primarily only looks at pollution from individual facilities and doesn’t take into account how toxic chemicals in the air can compound in some areas, as this report does, according to ProPublica.

This is a summary of the article “Poison in the Air” published by ProPublica on November 2. The full article can be found on

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