People of color breathe Denver’s worst air, CU Boulder study finds

March 4, 2024

Daily Camera. (2024, February 29). People of color breathe Denver’s worst air, CU Boulder study finds.

According to a study from the University of Colorado Boulder, people of color in Denver, specifically Hispanics and Latinos, are exposed to higher levels of air pollution than white people.

The study found poor air quality is connected to redlining, a practice in the 1930s and 1940s in Denver where people of color were refused mortgages in certain neighborhoods, forcing them to live in different areas of the city.

Industrial zones and highways were built around these areas, which have lower value. Highways were purposefully built through neighborhoods of color, and many people continue to live in historically redlined neighborhoods decades after the practice ended.

The 80216 zip code, which includes the Denver neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea, was ranked as the most polluted zip code in the United States, according to a 2017 study. Olga Gonzalez, executive director of the nonprofit Cultivando, said this pollution has been going on for decades in these neighborhoods that are predominantly made up of Indigenous and Latino people.

…Javier Soto, president and CEO of The Denver Foundation, was not surprised by the results of the study. The Denver Foundation is focused on issues of equity and aims to be a leader in reducing racial disparities.

Headshot Javier Alberto Soto

“For a number of years now, not just here in Colorado, I think there’s been a growing recognition that communities of color and poor communities are on the front lines of dealing with a changing climate,” Soto said, adding, “I don’t think it should be acceptable to anybody, it’s especially not acceptable to us here at The Denver Foundation.”











CU Boulder doctoral student, Alex Bradley, hopes the study will help support activists from groups like Cultivando when they approach regulators and politicians to spark change. Measures that would help include prioritizing electricity and public transit infrastructure, truck re-routing away from these neighborhoods, and location-specific emissions reductions.

For the complete article, visit the Boulder Daily Camera website.