Geospatial Analysis of Environmental Health

Volume 4 of the series Geotechnologies and the Environment pp 223-242


Asthma, Air Quality and Environmental Justice in Louisville, Kentucky

  • Carol HanchetteAffiliated withDepartment of Geography and Geosciences, University of Louisville Email author 
  • , Jong-Hyung LeeAffiliated withDepartment of Physics, Chungbuk National University
  • , Tim E. AldrichAffiliated withCollege of Public Health, East Tennessee State University

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Many analyses have demonstrated that environmental hazards tend to be concentrated in areas with higher numbers of low-income populations and people of color. We used geographic information science (GISc) and statistical analyses to examine issues of air quality and asthma occurrence among urban children in Louisville, Kentucky. The results of our analyses indicate that there is a well-defined spatial cluster of high rates of childhood asthma hospitalizations in western Louisville, an area of the city that is notorious for its poor air quality and the poor economic and physical health of its residents. Analyses also confirmed a strong seasonal pattern to asthma, with a fall peak. The multi-factorial etiology of asthma makes it difficult to pinpoint specific triggers for acute asthma episodes. Analyses of EPA criteria pollutants and volatile organic compounds from local air monitoring sites showed very little correlation with hospital admissions, although acetone, acrylonitrile and chloroform manifested similar seasonal patterns. In order to address the environmental justice concerns of disproportionate siting vs. minority move-in, we used GISc to examine patterns of residential mobility in western Louisville over a 60-year period. The polluting industries in western Louisville’s “Rubbertown” preceded the local in-migration of African-Americans, the majority of which took place from 1960 to 1970. While the increasing African-American presence in the community has resulted in a community with greater social cohesion over time and successful community-based initiatives to reduce air toxics emissions have been implemented, significant health disparities in western Louisville must continue to be addressed.


Asthma Environmental justice Louisville Kentucky Air pollution Seasonality