(COMMON DREAMS) Rebecca Ruggles — Baltimore, my hometown, is facing its highest rate of homicides in decades. Along with other cities that are reporting higher than usual violent crime rates this summer, Baltimore’s murder rate is up by 33 percent this year.
It’s a terrible reminder that the violence that erupted this spring, when Freddie Gray died in police custody, continues. People in urban America are suffering not just from police brutality, but also from increased rates of armed robberies, muggings, and gun violence.
It’s not just about crime, though, or even poverty. Millions of residents in these neighborhoods also confront a less visible form of violence: environments that assault their health on a daily basis.
Kids are especially at risk. Children are more heavily exposed to toxins in proportion to their body weight. And they have more years of life ahead of them in which to suffer the effects of early exposure.
That’s why a scientific review of research on air pollution concluded that “the effects of air pollution on brains of children and teens ought to be key public health targets.” Exposure to various forms of air pollution can affect kids’ brains in scary ways — including an increased risk of autism and a reduced IQ.
The problem is especially bad for poor communities of color, since they’re much more likely to live near sources of hazardous pollution. Baltimore, for example, still has some of the worst ozone on the East Coast. The pattern plays out all across the country.