This summer is already shaping up to be a scorcher. The northeast has gone from sweaters to sweltering in under a week, persistent droughts have brought record setting wildfires in New Mexico, and just weeks into hurricane season, we're already awaiting the fourth named storm in the Atlantic. For many Latinos in these seriously impacted parts of the country and for many who work outside in the heat or live in areas that don't meet clean air rules and are struggling under healthcare costs, the risks of climate change are real. Recognizing this, Voces Verdes , along with a number of Latino organizations nationwide representing Hispanic health professionals are standing up to support new clean air safeguards that might help save lives by cutting pollution from coal power plants.
Over the past two months, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), received an unprecedented two million comments from individuals and groups supporting new standards to cut carbon pollution in our air. Up until now, coal power plants-the largest carbon polluters in our nation-have been allowed to spew dangerous gases into our air unchecked. The rest of us have paid the price. Carbon pollution collects in our atmosphere, speeding up climate change and setting us on a path for even hotter summers, more frequent and disastrous heat waves and storms, and dangerous health risks for Latinos and all Americans.
As a key factor in climate change, carbon pollution can have harmful implications for the health of Latino families. Nearly 83 percent of our nation's farmworkers are Latino, laboring outside for long hours in dangerously hot conditions. Since the 1990s, the rates of heat-related deaths among U.S. farm workers have tripled. And the future only looks worse-last year was the second hottest and driest summer on record, and 2012 has already set new temperature records in the lower 48 states. That means U.S. farmworkers might expect even more cases of severe dehydration, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion as our planet sizzles.
Hotter temperatures also make smog worse, threatening the health of Latino children who run and play outside due to asthma. Nearly half of all U.S. Latinos already live in areas where smog makes the air unhealthy to breathe. Paying for healthcare to manage asthma, chronic bronchitis, or other respiratory diseases aggravated by smog can be devastating for any family. Worsened smog due to warmer climates can be especially painful for Latinos and immigrant communities, who are the least likely to be insured compared with other groups in the U.S.
Thankfully, our federal government now has a historic opportunity to protect the health of Latino families and all communities. The new rules will help set us on the path to cleaner, safer sources of energy, and the economic growth that comes from new industries like solar energy, wind power, and energy efficiency.