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Am J Public Health. 2011 Dec;101 Suppl 1:S53-63. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300121. Epub 2011 May 6.

Disproportionate exposures in environmental justice and other populations: the importance of outliers.

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Division of Life Sciences, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA.


We examined traditional environmental justice populations and other groups whose exposure to contaminants is often disproportionately high. Risk assessment methods may not identify these populations, particularly if they are spatially dispersed. We suggest using a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey approach to oversample minority communities and develop methods for assessing exposure at different distances from pollution sources; publishing arithmetic and geometric means and full distributions for minority populations; and paying particular attention to high-end exposures. Means may sufficiently characterize populations as a whole but are inadequate in identifying vulnerable groups and subgroups. The number of individuals above the 95th percentile of any distribution may be small and unrepresentative, but these outliers are the ones who need to be protected.

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