I was appalled when I recently found out that two-thirds of Latino families in this country live in areas where the air doesn’t meet our federal government’s quality standards. Honestly, though, I was more embarrassed. How did I not know this? How did I not know that 25.6 million Latinos breathe dirty air every day? I mean, I probably knew that, as many other things true for Latinos in America today, we would pretty much be the segment of the population most affected by pollution and other contaminants, but I wasn’t ready for the numbers.
They are staggering:
- Latinos are three times as likely as whites to die from asthma. Latino children are also 60 percent more at risk than white children to have asthma attacks. My 4-year-old daughter has asthma and just thinking about the possibility of an attack — like the ones my husband has described he had as an asthmatic child — paralyzes me.
- According to the Center for American Progress, 7 out of the 25 worst polluted U.S. cities — measured by unsafe levels of particulate pollution and ozone — have Latino populations over 40 percent. I knew that Los Angeles was probably one of them, but I didn’t know that ALL of those 7 most polluted cities are in the gorgeous state of California. (For more, check this table.)
- Almost 90 percent of farm workers in our country are Latino. Harmful pesticides in both the air and water are an everyday thing for them and their families. 90 percent? Really? I knew it was high, but that high? Wow!
To make matters even worse, since Latinos are usually uninsured or under-insured, they typically don’t get the treatment they require for the illnesses caused by the dirty air they breathe. We’re talking stuff like asthma, lung cancer and chronic bronchitis.
This article from the Center for American Progress by Jorge Madrid explains it all very well and in great detail. I learned so much from it, but what stayed with me the most is its call on Latinos to “demand a strong EPA that can protect them from polluters and help ensure clean air and water for future generations.”
The time has come for all of us Latinos to band together, like we do for so many other causes, and let our government know that we want clean air too, that we deserve clean air too! We need to make sure our voices are heard, especially now that some lawmakers want to pretty much put a stop to what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been doing to protect us from harmful air and water for the last 40 years. Considering the staggering numbers above, Latinos have the most to lose if Congress doesn’t put a stop to this nonsense.
As a Latina mother of two small children with respiratory illnesses I demand that Congress vote against any kind of proposal that blocks the EPA’s ability to do it’s job by protecting us from life-threatening pollutants.