This interactive map highlights areas in the contiguous United States where levels of air pollution associated with cancer risk are greater than the levels that the EPA deems acceptable.
Students will learn that the EPA does not take into account the cumulative risk of cancer for individuals living in close proximity to multiple factories and refineries.
Three linked articles (Our Story, Our Methodology, and What This Means for You) provide an enormous amount of information about how ProPublica created the map and the implications for the at-risk communities.
The map highlights "hot spots" around the country but also allows students to search for their own addresses.
Clicking on the hot spots generates a pop-out with detailed information about the risk of cancer in the area and the contributing factors for the increased risk.
Students should be familiar with the role of the EPA.
The resource is available in Spanish.
Teachers should be sensitive to the fact that some students or their families may have been directly affected by pollution-induced health problems.
Civics and government classes could review the history of the Clean Air Act and learn more about how it is enforced.
Social studies and history classes could read the linked article titled "Our Story" to learn about why BIPOC communities (especially Black communities) are disproportionately located near factories that cause air pollution. Students could also read "What This Means for You" to find out what communities can do to advocate for themselves.
Science classes could watch this video on portable air sensors and then use portable air sensors to test the air quality in the community.
Other resources on this topic include this Vox video that explains why proximity to air pollution makes the effects of COVID-19 more dangerous for Black people, this SubjectToClimate lesson plan on Cancer Alley, and this article about environmental racism in the Bronx.
This resource is a high resolution map of the 1,000 hot spots identified by the Environmental Protection Agency where citizens are at a higher risk of cancer as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals from industry. The data is publicly available and the methodology provided by ProPublica is thorough and worthy of a peer-reviewed journal. This resource is recommended for teaching.
English Language Arts
R.9-12.12 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
Standard 1: Health Concepts
1.4.9-D Students analyze how one's environment and other factors impact personal health.
Civics & Government
Civics & Government 1 (D2): Students understand the basic ideals, purposes, principles, structures, and processes of constitutional government in Maine and the United States as well as examples of other forms of government in the world by comparing how laws are made in Maine and at the federal level in the United States.
Geography 1 (F1): Students understand the geography of the community, Maine, the United States, and various regions of the world, and geographic influences on life in the past, present, and future by using the geographic grid and a variety of types of maps, including digital sources, to locate and access relevant geographic information that reflects multiple perspectives.