Published December 25, 2016
Latinos are three times more likely to die from asthma than other racial or ethnic groups in the United States due in large parts to socioeconomic, housing and health care divides in the country, one environmental non-profit said.
With Latino children being 40 percent more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites, and nearly 1 in 10 Latino children under the age of 18 suffering from this chronic respiratory illness, the danger of indoor and outdoor air pollution have become a plague on the Hispanic community, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said.
“We can help address the immediate problem through other avenues – like improving health care coverage or worker protections,” the EDF wrote on their website. “But ultimately, we need to address the root of the problem. We need to get rid of the air pollution and toxins that are linked to asthma.”
One of the biggest reasons for Latinos high asthma rates is that many of them, especially newly arrived immigrants, work in low-paying jobs, often in the fields of agriculture, construction, and service. Glues, insulation, and wood products to which construction workers are disproportionately exposed to contain the toxic chemical formaldehyde and asthma-related toxins can also be found in paints, cleaning products, carpets and foam cushions.
“Too often, these jobs expose workers to serious respiratory hazards from both indoor and outdoor air pollution, yet they frequently provide no healthcare benefits,” The EDF said.
Along with the work environment, many homes where newly arrived immigrants and lower-income Latinos live in are substandard or located near major roadways, factories or power plants, where exposure to harmful pollutants is almost guaranteed.
Nearly 1 in 2 Latinos in the U.S. live in counties that frequently violate ground-level ozone standards. Also, Hispanics are 165 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution than non-Latino whites, and nearly 2 in 5 Latinos lives within 30 miles of a power plant, the EDF stated.
“People with asthma are especially sensitive to the pollutants released from cars, buses, heavy machinery, factories and power plants, including particulate matter (soot), ground-level ozone (smog), carbon monoxide and more,” the organization added.
Adding to the over-exposure to asthma-inducing pollutants and chemicals, there are a disproportionate amount of Latinos in the U.S. without health insurance. Nearly 1 in 3 Latinos lacks coverage.
“This is due in part to the language, educational, and economic barriers mentioned previously, which can limit access to or awareness of available health care resources that may be available,” the report stated.
The Centers for Disease Control's National Asthma Control Program, among others, has procedures in place to try to combat the problem. It monitors asthma deaths closely and provides funding for the development of asthma control plans to state health departments, among other efforts.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, too, is breathing life into the fight against the condition. Its mission, according to its website aafa.org, is to improve the quality of life for people with asthma and allergic diseases through education, advocacy and research.