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Jorge Madrid

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Half of All U.S. Latinos Live In The Country's Most Polluted Cities

Posted: 09/21/11 08:07 AM ET

A major report released jointly this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, the Center for American Progress and the National Wildlife Federation finds that nearly one in two Latinos live in areas where breathing is unhealthy and even deadly.

This report comes on the heels of a shocking announcement from President Obama, blocking his own administration from adopting stronger smog standards that would have saved thousands of lives. Citing the need to reduce "regulatory burdens" as the motivation for delaying this critical rule, the administration has effectively put the profits of a few polluting industries ahead of the health and safety of the fastest growing population group in the country.

For the approximately 23 million Latinos living in unhealthy and possibly deadly air pollution, time is not a luxury. Latino children are 60 percent more likely to suffer from asthma attacks than white children, and as a group Latinos are more likely to die from this disease than whites.

Likewise, Latinos are far more likely to live within ten miles of a coal fired power plant, which means they are disproportionately exposed to mercury and other dangerous toxins that are known to cause developmental delays in young children and the unborn. As many as 1 in 6 Latinas of child bearing age have enough mercury in their system to put their children at risk.

But clean air is not the only issue on the Latino agenda.

Latino voters strongly believe that switching to cleaner sources of energy will create new jobs and grow the economy. Many conservative politicians in Washington D.C. are peddling false talking points that environmental regulations are "job killers" and constrict economic growth. As a group, Latino voters in key voting states overwhelmingly reject this notion.

With unemployment rates for Latinos hovering well above the national average, jobs and the economy are understandably a high priority. However, Latinos are not willing to sacrifice the health of their families and the community.

Latinos want clean air and a strong economy. They are the fastest growing group of voters in the U.S., with 12.2 million Latinos projected to vote in 2012. They need to know that their leaders in Washington D.C. are fighting to protect their health and grow jobs - two things that are not mutually exclusive.

The report, "U.S. Latinos and air pollution: a call to action" can be viewed here.