Latinos Feel the Pain of Attacks on Clean Air and Are Ready to Act
By Adrianna Quintero This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post on 10/20/11. Today, NRDC, along with the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, the Center for American Progress, and the National Wildlife Federation released an important new report, U.S. Latinos and Air Pollution: A Call to Action. Our report highlights some of the most striking facts about how seriously Latinos in the U.S. are affected by air pollution, and how President Obama's recent decision blocking his own administration from adopting stronger smog standards, and the ongoing war on clean air unfolding in Congress, impact U.S. Latinos. Scientists have known for decades that air pollution is linked to serious health effects, including asthma, bronchitis, lung and heart disease, developmental disorders, and increased mortality. Sadly, one out of every two Latinos in the U.S. lives in counties that frequently violate air pollution standards. The list of our most polluted cities is strikingly similar to the list of the largest Latino cities nationwide. The aggravating factor for Latinos is that, in addition to living in heavily polluted areas, a lack of adequate insurance coverage, high unemployment and a high number of workers working outdoors, make the impacts even greater. Like most Americans, Latinos want clean air and a strong economy. As the fastest growing group of voters in the U.S., Latinos want to know that our leaders in Washington are fighting to protect our health and grow jobs recongnizing that these two things are not mutually exclusive but instead go hand in hand. With 12.2 million Latinos projected to vote in 2012, ignoring the very real health and economic impacts of air pollution on this large voting bloc could have very real consequences. Our co-author, Andrea Delgado, National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC) Fellow and Senior Policy Analyst at the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) puts it well, "Again and again Washington policymakers are ignoring the issues that really matter to Latinos, and clean air is one of them. Dirty air is attacking our families; it makes it harder for kids to learn in school and harder for parents to provide for their loved ones." We get it. Breathing should not be a luxury. As Dr. Elena Rios, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association stated in today's release, "breathing should be a subconscious function. But for those affected by asthma, and especially for those receiving inadequate health care, rollbacks to our clean air laws will result in horrible and limiting lifestyle changes. Ongoing attacks in Congress like the TRAIN Act (H.R. 2401) and amendments that will be voted on by the House of Representatives will surely result in these horrible, limiting lifestyle changes. These attacks do frightening things like shift our landmark air protections from decisions based on health science and medicine, to decisions based equally on "feasibility and costs" to polluting industries. Clearly, Congressman Cantor (R-VA), Latta (R-OH), and Whitfield (R-KY) seem to have no shame proposing amendments that would cause death, disease and human misery to protect their polluter friends. No parent should have to tell his child that his well-being matters less to our government leaders than a polluter's bottom line and these actions will not go unnoticed. We and our allies at Voces Verdes are again working to make these attacks known to Latinos and make clear that we can create jobs while making our air safe to breathe and protect our children from dangerous toxins. Together, Latino businesses, medical professionals and community leaders nationwide will call on Washington policymakers to protect all Americans from dangerous air pollution, turning this call to action into a battle cry against these blatant attacks on our lives and the future of our communities.