Associations between socioeconomic status and ultrafine particulate exposure in the school commute: An environmental inequality study for Toronto, Canada
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Ultrafine particulate matter (UFP) air pollution is unevenly distributed across urban environments. Disparities in routine activity patterns, such as the exposure risk we face at work or on the commute, can contribute to chronic exposure-related health outcomes that place excess burdening on vulnerable population groups. In Canada, there is disagreement in the literature on the nature of these exposure-related inequalities, and our understanding of disparities associated with specific activity patterns such as commuting is limited. In the context of UFP specific exposure, these relationships are almost entirely unexplored in the environmental inequality literature. Our study presents an exploratory analysis of UFP exposure patterns in Toronto, Canada. We examined UFP dosage disparities experienced by children during routine school commutes. We estimated single trip dosages that accounted for variation in ambient UFP concentration, route morphology (distance, slope) and their effect on inhalation rate and trip duration. We aggregated these values at the dissemination-area level and collected socioeconomic status descriptors from the 2016 census. Our OLS model showed significant spatial autocorrelation (MI = 0.59, p < 0.001), and we instead applied a spatial error model to account for spatial effects in our dataset. We identified significant associations related to median income (β = -0.087, p < 0.05), government transfer dependence (β = -0.107, p < 0.005), immigration status (β = 0.119, p < 0.001), and education rates (β = -0.059, p < 0.05). Our results diverged from other pollutants in Toronto-based literature and could indicate that UFPs exhibit unique patterns of inequality. Our findings suggest a need to further study UFP dosage from an environmental inequality perspective.
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