Toxic Metal Injustice? Socioeconomic Status at Birth and Proximity to Airborne Contamination
32 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2022
We study airborne levels of three toxic metals -- arsenic, lead, and mercury -- and ask whether geographical closeness to contamination of these metals is unequally distributed within the population of newborn children. We answer this question by applying registry data from Sweden and data on airborne pollution for the years 1992--2014. Exposure to arsenic, lead, and mercury has previously been linked to negative health effects including worse cognitive development. However, we find no evidence that closeness to contamination is associated with socioeconomic status at the place of residence at birth. This leads us to conclude that environmental injustice with regard to mercury, lead or arsenic contamination is negligible. The likely explanation is that contamination is not visible enough, and therefore not sufficiently salient, to result in residential sorting.
Keywords: Toxic metals, Environmental justice, Socioeconomic status, Residential Sorting
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