Report: Hispanics disproportionately impacted by air pollution

Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the nation and many are living in or near urban areas, which makes them disproportionately impacted by air pollution, a national report released Tuesday states.

In New Jersey, several counties, including Bergen, Passaic, and Hudson counties, home to a growing number of Hispanics, do not meet federal ozone standards, according to information from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We already have higher rates of asthma than others in our country because Latinos live in poor communities where there are lots of air pollutants but especially we are looking at smog and ozone,” said Elena Rios, president and CEO of National Hispanic Medical Association, one of the organizations to release the report on Tuesday during a telephone news conference.


Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the nation and many are living in or near urban areas, which makes them disproportionately impacted by air pollution, a national report released Tuesday states.

In New Jersey, several counties, including Bergen, Passaic, and Hudson counties, home to a growing number of Hispanics, do not meet federal ozone standards, according to information from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We already have higher rates of asthma than others in our country because Latinos live in poor communities where there are lots of air pollutants but especially we are looking at smog and ozone,” said Elena Rios, president and CEO of National Hispanic Medical Association, one of the organizations to release the report on Tuesday during a telephone news conference.

Fast facts

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 report entitled “U.S. Latinos and Air Pollution: A Call to Action,” was written by members of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, the Center for American Progress and the National Wildlife Federation.

The report highlights air pollution in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas where more than 75 percent of Hispanic Americans live. It calls for the EPA to strengthen its standards on ozone, mercury and other air toxins.

Asthma is on the rise among children living in New Jersey, according to the report. Latino and black children were the most likely to be diagnosed with asthma at 10.4 percent, and 12.8 percent, respectively, according to a section in the report written by Dr. Evelyn Montalvo-Stanton, a pediatric pulmonologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at the New Jersey Medical School at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey.

Latino children in New Jersey were one and a half times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma and visit the emergency room compared to non-Latino children, she wrote..

The report comes a few weeks after President Obama announced that he would shelve plans to toughen the federal Clean Air Act by lowering the ozone standard, saying it would pose too much of a burden on businesses and government during a weakened economy.

The EPA had proposed lowering the ozone standard from 75 parts per billion to 60 to 70 parts per billion. Obama and EPA officials have said that the issue would be revisited in 2013.

“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.”
 

Besides living in areas with poor air quality, Latinos also face other obstacles, including working in jobs outdoors that expose them to more pollutants. Many Hispanics also lack or don’t have adequate health insurance.

Cultural factors also contribute to when and how Hispanics seek treatment for respiratory problems, experts said.

 “Many of our families, for example, wait until the last minute to go to the doctor or to a clinic,” Rios said.

The report calls for the government to continue to fund studies on respiratory diseases and other air pollution related conditions in Latino and other minority communities, and recommends that states implement programs to notify Latinos about the health risks of air pollution.
 

 

 

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