East Las Vegas, which is about 66 percent Latino, is one of the Nevada communities most vulnerable to the damaging effects of poor air quality.
But a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency announced in July may help. The so-called “Buen Aire Para Todos” (Good Air for All) project, a collaboration between ImpactNV, Desert Research Institute, the City of Las Vegas, the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road Nevada and the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, has goal to use $300,000 in funding to bring harmful air quality to healthier levels.
With less greenery compared to newer master-planned areas like Summerlin, pollution from major highways, unair-conditioned homes, and income levels lower than the city in general, residents in the East Las Vegas neighborhood are finding it more difficult to manage resources. available against the climate crisis. On a daily basis, air quality levels are usually in the temperate zone, meaning residents are advised to limit time outdoors if they are more at risk from airborne toxins.
“There is not much greenery. So there are a lot of emissions from vehicles and also a lot of extra heat,” says Lauren Boitel, director of ImpactNV The Independent Nevada.
Within the next two years, stationary and mobile outdoor sensors, as well as indoor sensors, will monitor air quality and provide real-time data for local residents and the city of Las Vegas. The information from the sensors will help determine where solutions, such as installing air filters in homes, are most needed.
Ten PurpleAir devices — sensors that glow based on air quality and provide data to an online map — will be installed on public buildings and streetlights and placed in other public areas to provide a low number of air quality stations in Las Vegas and little to no stations in the East Las Vegas area.
In partnership with local business owners, 10 mobile sensors will also be attached to food carts and food trucks – places where workers can be exposed to dangerously high temperatures and more vulnerable to street air pollution and the pollution from their vehicles. Twenty sensors will also be installed in the households of voluntary participants.
Lead-based paint and fewer ventilation systems in older homes add to the problem of air pollution in indoor environments because many of the homes in East Las Vegas have not been renovated.
“You have older houses, in those neighborhoods that … can’t be adequately ventilated indoors. So they can’t really emit the pollution that penetrates from the outside in [the] indoor environment or [generated] indoor environment,” said Lung-Wen Antony Chen, director of the Urban Air Quality Program at the UNLV School of Public Health.
However, he explained that indoor air quality is an area that still needs further investigation due to the lack of data on various air filters. The air quality monitors will play a major role in this.
Monthly replacement, highly energy-efficient air filters are installed in homes to help protect against excessive dust and particulate matter. This will continue over the course of a year to test the effectiveness of the filter and is a small step in improving air quality. Participants receive compensation for their involvement in the project.
A community effort
Spreading community awareness about how to improve indoor air quality and the health consequences of poor air quality is a critical step in the project. Scheduled information sessions will teach attendees how to understand the Air Quality Index (AQI), reduce toxins in their own homes, and beat the heat.
Make the Road Nevada, a partner of the “Buen Aire Para Todos” project, will work with community members in East Las Vegas and identify potential solutions to issues they face during the organization’s first air quality campaign.
“We really try to engage our community members in having conversations about how the environment affects their daily lives,” said Audrey Peral, director of organization at Make the Road Nevada.
The Eros Project – based on a nickname for paletos (popsicle sellers), eloteros (street grain sellers) and other street food vendors – has been a lengthy outreach campaign at Make the Road Nevada. With increasingly intense heat waves due to climate change, it has become more dangerous and difficult for street vendors to work outside for extended periods of time.
The project began before the pandemic and worked to bring resources to suppliers to arm themselves against extreme weather and also partnered with local credit unions to provide secure and reliable banking systems such as Venmo and Zelle for undocumented workers. The clean air project will be a new starting point of the campaign in hopes of providing solutions for these workers.
“Knowing that first hand, these are the people who are outside on a daily basis, so they are the ones who are really being impacted by this extreme heat and the extreme weather changes that are happening and the heat island effects that we are facing in our parts of the world.” town,” said Peral.
Latinos at Higher Risk of Serious Health Problems
Residents of East Las Vegas are facing serious impacts from climate change due to redlining – a discriminatory practice that has resulted in neighborhoods mostly made up of people of color being in dangerous or less established areas.
“One of the big opportunities for East Las Vegas is because of the lack of air monitoring and having some of the worst environmental fairness indicators in terms of air quality in that area,” Boitel said.
Ozone, a form of air pollutant, can come from vehicles, industry and other forms of smog. From 2018 to 2020, Clark County had an average of 21.7 days of high ozone levels, prompting the American Lung Association to give the county an “F” grade for air quality.
In fact, Las Vegas and Henderson are ranked as the 11th most ozone-polluted cities in the United States, with most of the pollution coming from vehicle exhaust engines that produce chemically heavy diesel particulates — which East Las Vegas is experiencing firsthand.
The province also achieved an “F” grade for high levels of air pollutant particles below 2.5 micrometers – known as PM 2.5.
When a person is exposed to the pollutant for a long time, the inhaled particles can flow from the lungs into the bloodstream and cause asthma, heart disease, lung disease and even lung cancer.
Data shows a higher prevalence of certain respiratory problems in the area: In the zip code of 89101, which includes the East Las Vegas Library, nearly 10.1 percent of adults suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2019, compared with 5.6 percent in the Summerlin Postal code of 89144.
“This one [is an] older neighborhood with a relatively high population density, so there is more traffic in those areas. So that means there could be more air pollution from motor vehicles for the people who live there,” Chen told The Nevada Independent.
Proponents see electric vehicles as a way to mitigate the ongoing air quality crisis. Legislation passed in 2021 paves the way for additional charging stations for electric vehicles, as well as other clean energy initiatives, that could move Nevada closer to its goal of reducing CO2 emissions to zero by 2050.
“Electric vehicles are of course quite expensive, but you can probably replace public transport buses with electric vehicles in the near future. That can help reduce traffic emissions,” Chen said.
For now, the “Buen Aire Para Todos” project will help collect data to provide solutions aimed at combating the air quality crisis. With the help of the grant, sensors and educational programs will start in a few months.
But technology aside, organizers say the community aspect of connecting with residents who experience pollution firsthand is one of the most important parts of the project.
“We have now been able to partner with new entities,” Peral said. “That will really help put this research on paper and make it something factual so that we can use it to really try to implement some policies that will be helpful to our community.”