NEW STUDY: Latinos Face Major Health Risks from Delays of EPA Air Pollution Rules

Serious Impacts Will be Felt by the Fast-Growing U.S. Latino Population; Worst Harms Seen to Latinos in AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, MA, NV, NJ, NY, PA and TX.

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,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.

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.”

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. A streaming audio replay of the news event is available at http://www.nrdc.org.