Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Cancer Risk Disparities between Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White Populations: The Role of Exposure to Indoor Air Pollution

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Cancer Risk Disparities between Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White Populations: The Role of Exposure to Indoor Air Pollution

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND: Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the United States; however, minimal information is available on their cancer risks from exposures to hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and how these risks compare to risks to non-Hispanic whites.

METHODS: We estimated the personal exposure and cancer risk of Hispanic and white adults who participated in the Relationships of Indoor, Outdoor, and Personal Air (RIOPA) study. We evaluated 12 of the sampled volatile organic compounds and carbonyls and identified the HAPs of most concern and their possible sources. Furthermore, we examined sociodemographic factors and building characteristics.

RESULTS: Cumulative cancer risks (CCRs) estimated for Hispanics (median = 519 x [10.sup.-6], 90th percentile = 3,968 x [10.sup.-6]) and for whites (median = 443 x [10.sup.-6], 90th percentile = 751 x [10.sup.-6]) were much greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) benchmark of [10.sup.-6]. Cumulative risks were dominated by formaldehyde and p-dichlorobenzene (p-DCB) and, to a lesser extent, by acetaldehyde, chloroform, and benzene. Exposure to all of these compounds except benzene was primarily due to indoor residential sources. Hispanics had statistically higher CCRs than did whites (p [less than or equal to] 0.05) because of differences in exposure to p-DCB, chloroform, and benzene. Formaldehyde was the largest contributor to CCR for 69% of Hispanics and 88% of whites. Cancer risks for pollutants emitted indoors increased in houses with lower ventilation rates.

CONCLUSIONS: Hispanics appear to be disproportionately affected by certain HAPs from indoor and outdoor sources. Policies that aim to reduce risk from exposure to HAPs for the entire population and population subgroups should consider indoor air pollution.

KEY WORDS: cancer risk assessment, formaldehyde, hazardous air pollutants, Hispanics, p-dichloro-benzene, personal exposure. Environ Health Perspect 117:1925-1931 (2009). doi:10.1289/ehp.0900925 available via [Online 4 August 2009]


Evidence suggests that disparities in environmental exposures may disproportionately affect the health of ethnic minorities. Census tracts with higher proportions of Hispanics or African Americans' appear to have higher outdoor levels of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) than do tracts with higher proportions of non-Hispanic whites (Apelberg et al. 2005; Linder et al. 2008; Morello-Frosch and Jcsdale 2006). However, this evidence is mostly based on outdoor measurements, and much less is known about exposure to indoor air pollution. Therefore, inhalation exposure assessments are needed to improve knowledge of environmental risk, given that these evaluations involve monitoring personal concentrations in the breathing zone of individuals throughout their daily activities. Such monitoring incorporates the penetration of outdoor pollutants into buildings, as well as important contributions from indoor sources of the HAPs and the large amount of time people spend indoors. The importance of indoor air to overall inhalation exposure is supported by results from various studies, most notably the Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM; Wallace 1991) and Relationships of Indoor, Outdoor, and Personal Air (RIOPA; Weisel et al. 2005) studies. These investigations demonstrate that some indoor sources can have greater effects on personal exposure to HAPs than those of outdoor origin.

Results from exposure assessments suggest that minority groups may have high exposures to specific HAPs that could cause significant disparities between these groups and the majority population. Pellizzari et al. (1999) used air pollutant data from the National Human Exposure Assessment Survey (NHEXAS) to determine chat minorities had higher personal measurements for lead and benzene than did nonminorities, but the authors cautioned that their sample size for minorities was small. …

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