lack of epidemiological and surveillance data, programs providing clinical occupational health services to Latino working populations have not been developed adequately. This cycle of “no services → no data → no services” can be broken by (1) simultaneously developing epidemiological research and surveillance methods that will effectively include Latino workers and (2) by providing clinical occupational health services accessible by and targeted to Latino working populations.

A related topic of growing interest in public health for the Latino population is Environmental Justice (sometimes considered from the perspective of “environmental “injustice”). Environmental justice has focused on the observation that air polluting entities, hazardous worksites, hazardous waste dumps and other sources of environmental pollution are likely to be sited in close proximity to communities of color (Frumkin et al., 1999).

There are no systematic, reliable sources of data on occupational diseases in the U.S. working population (Herbert and Landrigan, 2000). Recent peer-reviewed estimates of occupational morbidity and mortality experience for the general U.S. population (1992), not differentiated by race, are substantial (Leigh et al., 1997). Using the best available denominator data for the U.S. working population, we developed an estimate of the number of occupational disease deaths and new cases among Latino workers in the United States. Next, using U.S. and New York City aggregate data, we see that Latino workers are disproportionately employed in the more hazardous occupational categories and under-represented in the less hazardous categories.

MINORITIES AS A PERCENTAGE OF THE U.S. WORKING POPULATION

The U.S. Census Bureau and the BLS of the U.S. Department of Labor publish population statistics for each year based on population projections from the 1990 census (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). U.S. census data for 1998 and current statistics (1998) from the U.S. Department of Labor on U.S. occupational injury and illness experience and characteristics provided the basis for Tables 1 through 9. The demographic estimates of the U.S. working population by race and ethnicity appear in Table 1. The U.S. government provides data in Tables 1 through 9 combining race, (e.g., white and black) with ethnicity (e.g., Hispanic). Although not equivalent, we will use Latino for Hispanic and African-American for black.

TABLE 1 1998–99 Racial and Ethnicity Distribution of U.S. Population and Civilian Workforce

Race/Ethnicity

U.S. Civilian Workforce over 16 years old (in thousands)

Percent

Total U.S. Population (in thousands)

Percent

Hispanic (Latino)

14,492

10

34,864

12.8

Black

15,334

11

31,355

11.5

White

113,475

81

224,650

84.0

Total

140,863

100

272,820

100

NOTE: Percentages are greater than 100 because Hispanics can also be classified as black or white.

SOURCE: Census Bureau (2000) and BLS (2001).

It is interesting to note that Latinos are 10 percent of the civilian workforce (older than 16 years old) but 12.8 percent of the total population. In contrast, the African American civilian workforce is 11 percent while their proportion in the total population is 11.5 percent. The proportions of Latinos in both columns appear to show a substantial number of young Latinos (<16 years) not included yet in the civilian workforce.



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