As Air Pollution Regulation Crumbles, Latina Mothers Feel Impact

July 24, 2020

GreenLatinos issued the following statement today:

Washington, DC – Research shows that the climate crisis, perpetuated by the oil and gas industry, disproportionately impacts communities of color. As oil and gas companies push for deregulation, communities of color are experiencing elevated risks of cancer and respiratory effects due to air toxics emissions.  Gas flares are one antagonist threatening Latino and low-income communities with irreversible harm.

A new environmental public health study published in EHP points to a prevailing threat for pregnant women who live near the areas where flaring is common. These women had a 50 percent higher rate of giving birth prematurely, with the impact of flaring falling entirely on Latina mothers. As the U.S. grapples with institutional racism and EPA Administrator Wheeler rolls back clean air protections, the health effects from flaring raise serious concerns over environmental racism. More than 1.81 million Latinos live within a half mile radius of existing oil and gas facilities.

Key Findings: 

Odds of preterm birth were 30 percent higher for mothers who lived within three miles of an oil and gas well.

50 percent higher for women who were exposed to 10 or more flares over the course of pregnancy.

Flaring did not increase the risk of preterm birth for non-Hispanic white women, who accounted for about a third of mothers in the study.

"Our federal and state regulators have failed to regulate the pervasive oil and gas industry to the detriment of our reproductive health and rights -- our children and our future, with the burden falling on the shoulders of Latino families,”  said Virginia Palacios, GreenLatinos Advocate. “Under Administrator Wheeler, the U.S. EPA has proposed rollbacks of leak detection and repair regulations for the oil and gas sector.  Meanwhile, state regulators in Texas have declined to require production curtailment in order to address venting and flaring in the state. We need agencies at all levels to take our community's health seriously. As a woman of childbearing age living in an area with one of the highest gas production rates, I’ve often questioned whether I could safely be pregnant and raise a family where I currently live in the Eagle Ford Shale region of South Texas. Knowing that my odds of complication with pregnancy are associated with my ethnicity and that companies and regulators aren’t doing anything makes me feel trapped. ”

Contact: Virginia Palacios, GreenLatinos,  (English)

Betsy López-Wagner, López-Wagner Strategies, (Español)

GreenLatinos is a national network of Latino environmental and conservation advocates committed to addressing national, regional and local environmental, natural resources and conservation issues that significantly affect the health and welfare of the Latino community in the United States. GreenLatinos provides an inclusive table at which its members establish collaborative partnerships and networks to improve the environment; protect and promote conservation of land and other natural resources; amplify the voices of minority, low-income and tribal communities; and train, mentor, and promote the current and future generations of Latino environmentalists.

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