Air Quality and Health
Motor vehicle exhaust, household combustion devices, forest fire smoke, fossil fuel extraction, and aerosol industrial waste are the most common sources of air pollution. These contaminants remain suspended in the air we breathe. As we inhale, air pollution (particularly the smallest particles) can make its way into the deepest parts of our lungs, blood, and brain.
There are numerous diseases and harmful health effects associated with exposure to air pollution. These range from respiratory (for example, asthma, lung cancer, and COPD) to cardiovascular (stroke and heart attack) to neurological (dementia). The elderly and children are especially vulnerable and at risk of developing these diseases.
Latinos are more vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution given the geographical risk of where they live, work, go to school, and play. More than 1.78 million Latinos live in areas where toxic air pollution from oil and gas facilities is so high that the cancer risk due to this industry alone exceeds the EPA’s level of concern. Latinos are also twice as likely to visit an emergency room for asthma, and Latino children are twice as likely to die from asthma compared to their white counterparts.
Community Science for Empowerment
Community science represents a groundbreaking approach to learning and knowledge creation, promoting active engagement and ownership of scientific matters by community members. El Aire Que Respiramos leverages this approach to create a participatory experience that informs and empowers. By measuring PM2.5 concentrations at 12 heavily populated Latino sites, this project provides a comprehensive understanding of air pollution levels within these communities. Our analysis will include comparisons of PM2.5 concentrations measured in the Latino communities with measurements by EPA reference monitors in order to identify discrepancies in PM exposures across these communities. PM2.5 emissions primarily result from the combustion of fossil fuels and various human activities. Additionally, natural sources such as wildfires and dust storms can contribute to PM2.5 emissions. Once airborne, these particles can have detrimental effects on air quality and human health, making them a significant concern for environmental and public health authorities. Exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to respiratory diseases like asthma, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Additionally, it has been associated with cardiovascular problems such as stroke and heart attacks, as well as neurological conditions like dementia.
Our Air Quality Monitoring Sites
The project measures air pollution at 12 heavily populated Latino sites. The locations include those with some of the highest air pollution in the U.S., and all but one have rates of adult populations with asthma higher than the national average.