Latinos are among those facing the greatest risk from efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updates to health safeguards protecting Americans from ozone, mercury and other dangerous air pollutants, according to a major new report from the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for American Progress, and the National Wildlife Federation and released with the National Hispanic Medical Association.
Finding that one out of two Hispanic Americans living in counties that frequently violate air pollution standards, the report, which is titled “U.S. Latinos and Air Pollution: A Call to Action,” comes just days after President Obama pulled back the EPA’s stronger standard for ozone, and shortly before a series of votes planned for the U.S. House to block additional safeguards to protect public health from power plants, cement kilns and other industrial plants. The report highlights air pollution in states that are home to more than 75 percent of Hispanic Americans: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
“Latinos want clean air and a strong economy,” said Jorge Madrid, research associate at the Center for American Progress. “We are the fastest growing group of voters in the U.S., and we need to know our leaders in Washington are fighting to protect our health and grow jobs - those two things are not mutually exclusive.”
Dr. Elena Rios, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association, said: “One out of two Latino Americans already live in counties where the air is frequently unsafe for kids and adults to breathe. We need clean air, and blocking efforts to strengthen air pollution safeguards hits Hispanic Americans who pay the price for dirty air. The growing U.S. Latino population, which includes millions who are uninsured, faces serious health and financial burdens brought on by air pollution.”
“Again and again Washington policymakers are ignoring the issues that really matter to Latinos and clean air is one of them. Dirty air is attacking our families, it makes it harder for kids to learn in school and harder for parents to provide for their loved ones,” said Andrea Delgado, National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC) fellow and senior policy analyst at the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA).
“Latinos are especially vulnerable because they live in regions with the worst air contamination and air-related illnesses mean missed school and work days, emergency room visits, and jobs lost,” said Adrianna Quintero, advisor to Voces Verdes and senior attorney with NRDC. “Americans can’t afford this burden on their wallets in these hard times. The administration cannot keep putting profits before people.”
Key findings in the report include the following:
* Hispanics became the largest minority group in 191 metropolitan districts last year, with the highest expansion in areas of concentrated vehicle traffic, industry, and power plant activity. Roughly one out of every two Latinos live in areas that frequently violate clean air rules.
* As of 2008, 4.7 million Hispanics had been diagnosed with asthma. In their lifetime, Latinos are three times more likely to die from asthma than other racial or ethnic groups.
* Exposure to air pollution can aggravate preexisting health problems – especially respiratory problems like asthma. For millions of uninsured Latinos, this can lead to additional emergency room visits in the absence of primary care.
* The pending EPA mercury rule is critical to public health and would protect the nearly 40 percent of Latinos living within 30 miles of a power plant.
Clean air rules are good for health and the health of our economy. The EPA projects that the proposed mercury and air toxics standards will create up to 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs, as workers are hired to bring power plants into compliance. Considering that, on average, Hispanic workers occupy two out of every three new construction jobs in the United States, these standards could bring relief to thousands of Latino families suffering under the economic downturn.
The new report is available online at http://www.nrdc.org/media/2011/110920.asp.