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New Caldwell project seeks to monitor air quality in predominantly Latino community

A screenshot of the interactive visualization map tracking the air quality in Caldwell.
The project will keep track of air quality in Caldwell, ID in real-time for the next three years. (Screenshot of the air quality in Caldwell on September 27, 2023 taken from map.purpleair.com)

A new program will monitor the air quality in underserved Latino communities in Canyon County. El Aire que Respiramos, or The Air We Breathe, is an EPA-funded project monitoring air pollution in 12 latino communities across the U.S., including in Caldwell, Idaho.

The Hispanic Access Foundation will measure the health impacts of exposure to contaminants produced by motor vehicle exhaust, fossil fuel extraction, forest fires or household combustion devices. This will be done through a small device installed outside of the Rosa de Saron Church.

“We're actually on green right now,” said Pastor Reyna Ruano, the site’s manager, as she read the air quality in Caldwell on Tuesday afternoon.

“We are in between good and moderate. So the air quality is satisfying, but there's some pollution,” she said, adding the color to keep an eye out was maroon. “That's hazardous. And that would be a health warning of an emergency condition.”

According to the Hispanic Access Foundation, Latinos are twice as likely to visit the emergency room for asthma and Latino children are twice as likely to die from asthma than their white peers. Exposure to small matter particles can lead to higher rates of lung cancer, pulmonary disease and neurological disorders.Latinos in general are more vulnerable to pollution because they live in areas with higher concentration of toxic inhalable particles.

Ruano said the data will help Latinos become aware of the problem by helping folks visualize the quality of the air around them.

“Caldwell is growing. Nampa is growing. Boise is growing,” she said. “There's so much traffic nowadays and I just want to be part of the solution.”

Ruano added Latinos working in the agricultural fields are often exposed to harmful chemicals, which may contribute to worse health outcomes. Through this project, she hopes community members will be empowered to fight against environmental health hazards and understand the importance of air quality.

The project started in early September and will capture the data for three years, making it available in real-time online.

As the Canyon County reporter, I cover the Latina/o/x communities and agricultural hub of the Treasure Valley. I’m super invested in local journalism and social equity, and very grateful to be working in Idaho.

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