Experts discuss how extreme heat is disproportionately impacting the Latino community

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) — Scientists joined with community, state and federal leaders Tuesday to discuss research showing how extreme heat is disproportionately affecting Latinos.

dr Michael Mendez, Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning at UC Irvine, moderated the panel.

According to Mendez, drought, heat waves, hazardous air quality and wildfires are impacting the Latino community as they are among the most affected groups of people affected by these climate-related disasters.

“Here in California we are experiencing a major climate crisis. There are differential impacts on the most marginalized and stigmatized populations, such as Latino neighborhoods and undocumented migrants,” Mendez said.

During a heatwave in early September, Eyewitness News brought you the voices of street vendors, painters, landscapers and farm workers making their livings in triple-digit temperatures — all Latino immigrants.

Rodolfo Benjamin Gramajo was painting a building when he spoke to Eyewitness News. He told Eyewitness News in Spanish that he had to find creative ways to avoid working in the sun all day because at the end of the day it takes its toll.

During a webinar Tuesday hosted by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute, academics, community leaders and policymakers discussed the available research on these injustices.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat-related deaths are 20 times more common among farm workers than among U.S. civilian workers.

In Los Angeles, Marta Segura, director of the Climate Emergency Mobilization Office, said they are investing in infrastructure to protect people living in neighborhoods made up mostly of streets and rooftops — which absorb and emit more heat than natural surfaces.

Low-income Latino immigrants, who usually suffer from pre-existing medical conditions, typically live in these communities known as “urban heat islands”.

Segura said extreme heat waves “are sending more people to the hospital and sending more people to premature deaths.”

Mendez urged that it was time to put scientific data into action.

“This data can’t just sit on a bookshelf,” he said. “It needs to be done in partnership with community groups and labor groups that are on the front lines of these climate change impacts like heat waves and wildfires.”

Mendez said the impact of extreme heat on marginalized communities is likely to be underreported due to language barriers and fear of retaliation.

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. Experts discuss how extreme heat is disproportionately impacting the Latino community

Laura Coffey

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