The University of Washington has produced research, which found approximately 3.5 percent of neighborhoods in Houston have the highest risk for cancer in the nation. The research also determines toxic conditions are a threat to many poor immigrant Latino communities.

Poor immigrant non-English speaking communities are more likely to be exposed to cancer-causing toxic pollution, and the poor Latino immigrant population is more severely affected than other racial or ethnic groups in the nation, according to research to be published in the November edition of Social Science Research. Manufacturing and industrial facilities, power plants, heavy highway traffic and other factors contribute to the cancerous air quality in many regions, particularly those with major transportation corridors where toxic clusters occur. Unfortunately, many poor immigrant non-English speaking communities live in close proximity to those clusters.

"Neighborhoods comprised of nonwhite, economically disadvantaged people who do not speak English as a native language and are foreign-born are the most vulnerable to being near these toxic air emissions," Sociology professor Raoul Liévanos said, according to a press release. "This is particularly the case with Latino immigrants."

Liévanos led the research, establishing that toxic emissions are most present in areas with high daily commutes, particularly when industrial facilities and manufacturing infrastructure are stationed nearby. Liévanos examined 2,000 neighborhoods using geographic information system and spatial analyses. He mapped the proximity of air pollution hotspots to demographic clusters, and learned that approximately 1-in-3 poor Latino immigrant neighborhoods across the nation bear the risk of living in areas with harmful, high toxic emissions.

The report showed segregated housing developments over the last century have positioned non-white, foreign-born communities closer to environmental hazards, while most non-Hispanic white communities are not as close to damning hazards. An example of this is Houston, where Interstate 10, I-45 and Loop 610 exist, creating a toxic air cluster that impact the health of the community. More than 43.8 percent of Houston's population is Latino and more than 28.3 percent is foreign-born. Also, within more than 46.3 percent of homes, a language other of English is spoken at home, and language barriers play a definite role when it comes to making informed decisions about real estate.

"If we now know that two of the most likely predictors of neighborhood proximity to a toxic air hotspot are its linguistic ability and immigrant status, then we start asking more nuanced questions about the role those factors play in creating such neighborhood vulnerabilities and how warning systems can be created to mitigate neighborhood exposures to air toxics," Liévanos said.

Economically disadvantaged Latino immigrant neighborhoods with limited English-speaking skills are more likely than any other subgroup in the nation to be exposed to toxic air, which could likely resulting in cancer, birth defects or serious reproductive sources. The research will arm environmental advocacy groups with important information about local and regional planning, land-use practices, and it impacts the health of multiracial and multilingual communities. Also, the information could help to provide insight about the next steps needed to be taken to improve conditions for vulnerable neighborhoods and regions, including the need to share health advisories in Spanish as well as English.

The University of California (UC) Toxic Substances Research and Teaching Program, UC Davis Atmospheric Aerosols and Health Program, UC Davis Department of Sociology and the Washington State University Department of Sociology, and UC Davis Center for Regional Change, UC Davis John Muir Institute of the Environment: Environmental Justice Project funded the research.