Hispanic Access Foundation, a national nonprofit that offers equitable research about the Latino community, has launched an air quality monitoring program in Caldwell to understand the impact that air pollution has on Idaho Latinos, according to a press release.
El Aire Que Respiramos, or “the air we breathe” in English, was launched in September as a community science project aimed to understand the air quality issues across different Latino communities in the U.S. The goal of the program is also to empower Latinos to take action to address the pollutants that cause poor health and climate change, according to the nonprofit’s website.
Caldwell is one of 12 locations where the program is taking place. Other locations where the project is taking place include:
- Commerce, CA
- Indio, CA
- La Mirada, CA
- San Bernardino, CA
- San Jacinto, CA
- Hollywood, CA
- Pharr, TX
- Weslaco, TX
- Blue Island, IL
- El Paso, TX
- Henderson, NV
Juan Rosas, the national coordinator of the nonprofit’s air quality project, told the Idaho Capital Sun in an interview that while Latinos are known for their hard work ethic, he said they are often working jobs where they are put at risk.
“Latinos are very hard working people, but they suffer in a lot of ways that a lot of communities do not,” Rosas said. “For example, we know Hispanic communities are leaders in agriculture, which is fantastic, but they are living in places with bad water quality, especially if they live near ports or factories.”
Rosas said Caldwell was selected for the program because of its concentration of Latinos working in agriculture. Caldwell is one of Idaho’s cities with the highest percentage of Latinos. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 38% of the city’s population identifies as Latino.
Funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Hispanic Access Foundation was granted $500,000 to complete the projects across the U.S. The project will take place in Caldwell over a three year period.
Rosas said the end goal of the program is to innovate policy solutions to improve air quality or learn from communities who have good air quality.
Health inequities among Idaho Latinos
Latinos are more prone to health impacts of air pollution given the geographical risk of where they live, work, go to school, and play, according to the Hispanic Access Foundation.
Chris Hennigan, a professor at the University of Maryland and the project’s air quality consultant, said in the press release that exposure to air pollution is responsible for millions of premature deaths each year, making it a leading environmental risk factor.
“Air pollution causes numerous diseases and deleterious health effects, including cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological impairments,” he said. “There are disparities in air pollution exposure by race and socioeconomic class, underscoring its role as a major issue of environmental justice.”
According to the Hispanic Access website, nearly 1.8 million Latinos in the U.S. live in areas where toxic air pollution from oil and gas facilities is so high that residents are at a higher risk of cancer. Latinos are also twice as likely to visit an emergency room for asthma, and Latino children are twice as likely to die from asthma compared to their white counterparts, according to Hispanic Access.
According to a health report from the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, the leading causes of deaths for Idaho Latinos in 2020 were heart disease, cancer and COVID-19. In 2020, deaths from COVID-19 for Idaho Latinos were more than double the deaths for non-Hispanic Idaho residents.
The project is in its initial stages of developing, Rosas said, but the Hispanic Access team will use an air quality monitoring system called “Purple Air,” to collect real-time air quality data and analyze trends.