Climate change is an ever-changing issue that affects the entire world, yet, it finds a way to narrow down to certain communities. The well-being of many is being attacked by dirty air, but it has become more evident in targeted communities.
Air Pollution in Minority Communities
Minority communities have been targets of unhealthy air for many years now. These communities, however, are the ones who produce the least amount of pollution. The non-Hispanic White community experiences 17 percent less air pollution than that of Hispanics, who experience 63 percent exposure, and Black minorities, who experience 56 percent exposure.
“We see air pollution, that everyone contributes to, extensively harming those who do not play a large role in its creation,” said Yifang Zhu, associate director of the Center for Clean Air at the University of California, Los Angeles.
In cities that hold a majority of pollution from Hispanic or Black communities, air pollution has skyrocketed and affected many of its residents. While predominantly White communities experience better air quality, these minority communities are succumbing to the effects of dirty air. Almost 40 percent more Black and Latinos breathe in pollution created by cars, trucks and buses than white communities.
“Communities of color and low-income communities are often more exposed to climate hazards, such as higher temperatures and worse air quality, and have fewer resources to weather these conditions,” as stated by Los Angeles County.
In California alone, 44 percent of Latino communities are targeted by poor air quality, compared to 25% of non-Latinos. 1 in 3 people part of the Black and Latinos live in communities that are in the top 20 percent of most polluted, while the White community is only 1 in 14.
Health Effects of Air Pollution
The effects of dirty air have been experienced by the wider population. Asthma, heart problems, and even cancer have been caused by the low air quality that the world is experiencing. For the entire population, 13 percent of asthma was traced back to poor air quality. This can be applied to 19 percent of cardiovascular deaths, 24 percent of coronary heart disease, 29 percent of lung cancer and 43 percent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Yet, it continues to attack minority communities at a larger rate.
According to Salud America, 1 in 10 U.S. Latino kids have been diagnosed with asthma and are twice as likely to die from it compared to others. Air pollution also heightens the risk of Latino children developing type 2 diabetes, leaving them at 50 percent likely to develop it rather than 40 percent of all Americans.
Actions to Improve Air Quality
Since the year 2000, the production of greenhouse gases created by people in the United States has gone down significantly. Though there has been a large decrease, there are still being actions implemented to move toward improving the quality of air for all.
Disparities in taking action toward air quality is also an issue that is seen. According to Nuestro Futuro, 9 in 10 Latinos want action – 8 in 10 support the effort that former President Barack Obama put into carbon pollution cuts. Yet, making climate change and ensuring a sustainable planet is a top priority is supported by a majority of all communities.
Los Angeles, a county that has a Hispanic/Latino population of 48.6 percent, is aiming to initiate Climate Change and Health Equity goals. This is going into action to create healthier communities. The county has set the goal to switch to complete wind, water and solar energy. It is also moving toward promoting transit development and new policies aimed at climate adaptation and climate-focused community needs assessment.
Though air quality, and climate change altogether, have been an enemy to everyone, minority communities have been damaged by the outcomes. Change is needed to combat the unhealthy effects of air quality. These communities have been a victim of the effects but have worked to reverse the results to protect the community. Complete change may be impossible, but adaptation is.