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Exposure to polluted air increases the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations 10 times in Latino neighborhoods north of Denver compared to other Colorado cities where the air lacks the same level of pollution, according to a new study from the Department of Public Health. and Colorado Environment (CDPHE).
“It breaks your heart to find out that this is true”Said Julissa Soto, executive director of the community organization Servicios de la Raza. “It is essential to amplify the voices of the communities most impacted by both poor air quality and disease.”
The CDPHE report is based on analysis of ambient air in Denver over the past 242 days with information provided by air monitoring stations distributed throughout the city, with a dozen of those stations in Latino-majority neighborhoods in the North. from the city, where the most polluted air in the city has been breathed for five years.
As a consequence, while the current average of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Denver is 1.4 per 1,000 inhabitants, in the Latino neighborhoods of Elyria, Swansea and Globeville, hospitalizations reach 13 per 1,000 residents.
A similar phenomenon was detected in Commerce City, a northern suburb of Denver, adjacent to the aforementioned neighborhoods, where half of the residents are Latino, with 12 hospitalizations per 1,000 residents. And in Latino neighborhoods in North Aurora (east of Denver), hospitalizations are 11 per 1,000 residents.
The report warns that “there are many factors” that contribute to hospitalizations being more frequent in sectors with the highest concentration of Latinos, although it recognizes that “air pollution is a major factor”.
Specifically, in North Denver, Commerce City and North Aurora this year “the worst levels of air pollution” in the region; that is, a high presence of particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter, known as PM2.5.
These particles make it difficult to breathe and can cause severe coughing and fits of asthma. In extreme cases, they can cause heart attacks.
“We have an oil refinery near our neighborhood. And then the rebuilding of I-70 filled the entire neighborhood with dust. And then came the pandemic. We were sad before and now the cases of asthma and health problems are even worse”Said Sandra Padilla, from the Globeville neighborhood organization and mother of several students at the local elementary school.
“More pollution and more covid. If no one has compassion for our suffering, What can we do?“, I ask.
At the national level, according to a detailed March 2019 report published by the Center for Biological Diversity and another April 2020 American Lung Association (ALA) report, Latinos and African-Americans living in areas where they are the majority face a disproportionate health risk due to air pollution.
Ethnic minority people “breathe very different particles“In terms of its composition and structure, with” different impacts on health, “says the ALA study.