African Americans are more likely to have allergies than their white counterparts. Are genetics to blame, or is there another culprit? According to a new study from the Henry Ford Health System settlement in Detroit, exposure to different types of environments is the main reason for the racial disparity; genetics are not a factor.

“We found that where one lived (i.e., urban vs. suburban) and self-reported race to be much stronger predictors of allergic sensitization when compared with genetic ancestry, arguing that different environmental exposures are the most likely cause of the disparity in allergies,” said L. Keoki Williams, MD, the lead author.

Pollution and illegal dumping of hazardous waste are more likely to occur in communities of color or low-income areas and can cause alarming levels of severe allergies, asthma, heart and lung disease and cancer among its residents.

Read RH’s “Seeing Green” to learn what you can do about pollution and illegal dumping in your area.