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Air pollution is the world’s greatest environmental health threat.
Sadly, Latinos and other minorities breathe 38% more polluted air than whites.
It’s even worse in California, where the Latino (39.1%) and Black (6.5%) populations live in regions with the dirtiest air in the state, according to a new environmental report from California Environmental Protection Agency.
“These folks primarily live in low-income, disadvantaged communities often found near ports, warehouses, rail yards, and factories that foul the air, pollute the water and rain toxins down on playgrounds, parks and backyards,” writes Rocky Rushing of the San Francisco Chronicle about the new report.
California Air Quality
In California, 44% of Latinos live in communities with poor air quality, compared to 25% of non-Latinos.
1 in 3 Latinos and Blacks lives in the top 20% of most pollution-impacted communities. Only 1 in 14 whites live in these communities, Rushing wrote about the new report.
Latino children make up more than half of California’s under 10 population. Sadly, 81% of those living in the most highly polluted area. Blacks and Asian kids are too disproportionately represented.
Furthermore, Latinos ages 65 and older make up an overwhelming 46% of the elderly population living in the top 10% of the most heavily pollution-impacted communities; but they comprise less than 20% of California’s elderly. 15% of Blacks live in these communities as well.
“This trend was reversed for older white residents, who account for 62 percent of California’s elderly population but only 25 percent of those living in the worst polluted communities,” Rushing wrote.
What Does This Mean For Latinos?
This is bad news for Latinos, especially children.
In general, children and the elderly are more susceptible to adverse health impacts of pollutants. Latino kids are twice as likely to die from asthma than their peers.
Latino kids who live in regions with greater levels of air pollution have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“Exposure to heightened air pollution during childhood increases the risk for Hispanic children to become obese and, independent of that, to also develop Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Michael Goran of USC.
Additionally, exposure to air pollution negatively affects the entire population.
Women who are pregnant and exposed to particulate matter and traffic-related pollution are more likely to give birth preterm.
On the bright side, Latinos are worried about climate change. They also support governmental action to improve the climate.
Creating Change With A New Law
On July 26, 2017, Assembly Bill 617, the Community Air Protection Program, was signed.
The law helps reduce exposure in communities most impacted by air pollution.
The program includes community air monitoring and community emissions reduction programs. It also funds early action to tackle localized air pollution through targeted incentive funding to implement cleaner technologies in these communities.
“AB 617 also includes new requirements for accelerated retrofit of pollution controls on industrial sources, increased penalty fees, and greater transparency and availability of air quality and emissions data, which will help advance air pollution control efforts throughout the State,” according to the California Air Resources Board.
What Can You Do to Boost Air Quality?
Find other ways to push less driving and more walking and biking, too!