Hispanic Access Foundation, a national nonprofit organization seeking to connect Latinos with relevant resources, has deployed an air quality monitoring program to understand the impact that air pollution has on Latino communities in the U.S., called "The Air We Breathe".
The goal of the program is to empower Hispanics to take action to address pollutants that cause health problems and climate change, according to the nonprofit organization's website.
The project measures air pollution at 12 heavily populated Latino locations, which include some of the ones with the highest levels in the country. Many of them also show higher rates of asthma among adults that are higher than the national average. Commerce, Inidio, La Mirada, San Bernardino, San Jacinto, Hollywood, all of them in California, are among them. This is also the case in Pharr, Weslaco and El Paso, both in Texas. Additionally in Blue Island, Illinois, Cadwell, Idaho and Henderson, Nevada.
The analysis includes comparisons of the presence of particle pollution that have reached unhealthy levels when breathed with measurements by EPA baseline monitors to identify discrepancies in exposures in Latino communities. The concrete unit of measure are PM2.5 emissions, which mainly result from the burning of fossil fuels and various human activities. Additionally, natural sources such as wildfires and dust storms can contribute to PM2.5 emissions.
Hispanic in the U.S. are exposed to higher levels of air pollution
A study released by Harvard University in 2022 concluded out that air pollution in predominantly Latino zip codes is 14% higher than in predominantly white areas for fine particulate matter and other contaminants. In fact, over the two decades examined in the study, fine particle levels decreased in white areas and either remained constant or increased in Latino communities.
"The researchers found that areas of the U.S. where the white and Native American populations are overrepresented have been consistently exposed to average PM2.5 levels that are lower than those in areas where Black, Asian, and Hispanic or Latino populations are overrepresented."
Another 2022 Report titled "Air Pollution Exposure in Hispanic and Latino Communities" by the American Lung Association contributed with its own explanation about the situation of Latino communities:
"Nationwide, much of the harmful air pollution concentrated in Hispanic and Latino neighborhoods is tied to the transportation industry. Trucks, trains, naval shipping, and heavy construction equipment are far more likely to operate near school playgrounds and parks in communities of color. The National Institutes of Health has determined that children and adolescents of color are more likely to develop asthma than their white counterparts and Department of Transportation studies have shown that people living adjacent to highways, supply-chain hubs and industrial areas will suffers worse medical outcomes, including higher rates of cancer, than their more affluent neighbors," reads a passage of the report.
"Latinos are more vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution given the geographical risk of where they live, work, go to school, and play. More than 1.78 million Latinos live in areas where toxic air pollution from oil and gas facilities is so high that the cancer risk due to this industry alone exceeds the EPA's level of concern. 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 the Hispanic Access Foundation, "PM2.5 emissions can have detrimental effects on air quality and human health once airborne, making them a significant concern for environmental and public health authorities. Exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to respiratory diseases like asthma, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Additionally, it has been associated with cardiovascular problems such as stroke and heart attacks, as well as neurological conditions like dementia."