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7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College


Social Studies, Geography, Health

Resource Types

  • Interactive Media
  • Articles and Websites

Regional Focus

North America, United States

The Most Detailed Map of Cancer-Causing Industrial Air Pollution in the U.S.

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  • 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. 
Teaching Tips


  • 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.

Additional Prerequisites

  • 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.
Scientist Notes
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.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.12.6-8 Assess specific rules and laws (both actual and proposed) as means of addressing public problems.
      • D2.Civ.13.6-8 Analyze the purposes, implementation, and consequences of public policies in multiple settings.
      • D2.Civ.11.9-12 Evaluate multiple procedures for making governmental decisions at the local, state, national, and international levels in terms of the civic purposes achieved.
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.2.6-8 Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions, and changes in their environmental characteristics.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.10 By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
  • National Health Education Standards
    • Standard 1: Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.
      • 1.12.3 Analyze how environment and personal health are interrelated.
    • Standard 3: Students will demonstrate the ability to access valid information, products, and services to enhance health.
      • 3.12.2 Use resources from home, school, and community that provide valid health information.
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