Hispanic Medical Association Applauds New Air Pollution Standards
By John Benson The Environmental Protection Agency’s recently revised air pollution standards regarding particulate matter, including soot, have National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) President and CEO Dr. Elena Rios pleased. “The standards would help limit the amount of fine particulate matter that can get into a person’s nasal passages, respiratory passages and can build up and create more inflammation, which leads to asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or all the different kinds of lung diseases,” Rios told VOXXI. Particulate matter such as soot, which is comprised of dangerous metals and chemicals that can deposit deep within the lungs and enter the bloodstream, becomes airborne by burning dirty fuels such as coal. Dr. Rios added that the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the new standards will cost between $53 million to $350 million to institute. As for benefit, the reduction of soot in the air will prevent 15,000 premature deaths annually. From a healthcare perspective, it’s estimated to have the potential to save between $4 and $9 billion. “In terms of cost of disease, you’re decreasing all of those emergency room visits, and all of those hospitalizations for people who can’t breathe,” Rios said. “I guess you can say it’s the first step in the right direction. “The poorest communities that are affected also have lots of Hispanic populations,” added Rios. “In terms of air quality and healthy lifestyle and healthy quality and exercising and being able to breathe, the whole concept of limited physical activity because of the impacts of respiratory problems is very, very important for anybody but especially among the Latino community. So we feel strongly we have to get involved from a public health perspective.” The National Hispanic Medical Association, which was established in 1994, is a non-profit association representing the interests of 45,000 licensed Hispanic physicians in the United States. The National Hispanic Medical Association is dedicated to empowering Hispanic physicians to be leaders who will help eliminate health disparities and improve the health of Hispanics. NHMA’s vision is to be the national leader to improve the health of Hispanic populations. Other areas of focus for the National Hispanic Medical Association include cancers, diabetes, HIV and AIDS. Rios said it’s the issue of lifestyle that leads to early childhood obesity that has the group’s attention. “We’ve been supported by the [W. K.] Kellogg Foundation to look at the younger group and to start looking at what are practices of new mothers with their kids and making sure they understand the importance of breastfeeding,” Rios said. “Also, then looking at the policies of childcare and how much TV and videogames little kids get involved with. So it’s a better lifestyle approach at the earlier ages.” As for the revised air pollution standards, Rios said it’s a step in the right direction. “The Environmental Protection Agency has impacted the Hispanic population with the air quality standards and with so many huge trucks driving through areas where there are school kids and that type of thing,” Rios said. “The environment is very much a part of our healthy lifestyles, so to the extent the EPA has been able to recognize that and having better air quality standards for small particulate matter, it’s great. You can applaud them for doing that.” Dr. Elena Rios is on the Voces Verdes Advisory Board. This article originally appeared on Voxxi.