Newsweek: Toxic air is killing Detroiters

alling it a “public health disaster,” Newsweek highlights ongoing health troubles in Southwest Detroit — particularly the 48217 ZIP code — River Rouge, Melvindale and other areas choked out by heavy industry in the area.

In a story released today, the magazine addresses an overlooked problem in the area: A rising number of asthma cases, especially among Black residents. With a steady focus on River Rouge and 48217, the Newsweek story underscores the damage air pollution has done to residents.

“According to the latest state data, more than 15 percent of Detroit’s adults have asthma, a 29 percent higher rate than the rest of Michigan. Detroiters are hospitalized for their asthma three times more frequently than other Michiganders. Being black ups the rate significantly: Black Detroiters are hospitalized for asthma at a rate more than 150 percent that of their white neighbors-and Detroit is 83 percent black. Most of the mini-cities ringed around the heavy industry south of Detroit are majority-black too. Poverty compounds the problem-it’s not easy managing a chronic illness when you’re making $24,000 a year, the average household income for black Detroit households.”

It’s not the first time the area’s industry has been under scrutiny; the Center for Public Integrity published a similar report in 2012. But today’s story comes on the heels of the Flint water crisis and increased attention to what experts call “environmental racism” in other cities nationwide.

Newsweek’s story focuses heavily on the Marathon refinery being granted a new permit to emit an additional 22 tons of sulfur dioxide a year into the air. However, the story also highlights the impact of the DTE River Rouge coal plant and the other industry sites within a 3-mile radius.


Read the full Newsweek story here.

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