Experts Discuss How Extreme Heat Disproportionately Affects Latino Community


SANTA ANA, California (KABC) — Scientists met Tuesday with leaders at the community, state and federal levels to discuss research showing how extreme heat disproportionately affects Latinos.

dr. Michael Mendez, the assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at UC Irvine, moderated the panel.

Mendez said drought, heat waves, dangerous air quality and wildfires are impacting the Latino community as they are some of the hardest hit groups of people affected by these climate-related disasters.

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

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During a heat wave in early September, Eyewitness News brought you the voices of street vendors, painters, landscape architects and farm workers who made their living 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 needed to find creative ways to avoid working in the sun all day, which takes its toll at the end of the day.

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

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat-related deaths among farm workers are 20 times greater 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 who live in neighborhoods made up mostly of roads and roofs — which absorb and release more heat than natural surfaces.

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

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

Mendez insisted it’s time to turn scientific data into action.

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

Mendez said the effects of extreme heat on marginalized communities were likely underreported because of language barriers and fears of retaliation.

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