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Health

Continued development of the U.S. - Mexico border trade corridor depends not only on government policy and economic innovation, but the health of the population and the labor market on the front lines of U.S. - Mexico trade. The populations most at risk are those clustered along the border at major points of exit/entry, such as the metropolises of San Diego-Tijuana and El Paso-Ciudad Juarez; two of the largest trans-national metropolises in the world. These populations are exposed to a myriad of health risks associated with a large trade corridor (such as heavy air pollution) while simultaneously lacking access to sufficient public health infrastructure and services.

   Addressing the health issues of the border populations is a problem facing the United States and Mexico equally: the pollution largely responsible for damaging public health does not recognize a border. Furthermore, the inefficiency of current border security and trade can be directly correlated to health issues. Despite the introduction of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism(C-TPAT) and the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) system of expedited freight truck lanes (read: car pool for trade) at heavy crossings such as Laredo, Texas, freight trucks and passenger vehicles may still wait up to an hour at border crossings to pass through. All this idling creates thick air pollution that has been linked to a rise in asthma for children in the border regions; the most frequently cited being the San Diego-Tijuana area. Another major health problem arises from the water sources. Many border communities depend on local rivers for drinking water. As a result of direct dumping, illegal waste disposal and contaminated groundwater from industrial sites, these rivers are often too polluted to swim in, let alone drink from or cook with. Water contamination is a direct cause of many diseases such as dysentery or typhoid that, combined with inadequate healthcare, can frequently be fatal. According to a 2004 study on border populations suffering from asthma, the lack of health infrastructure among the poorer communities on both sides of the border lead to more emergency room visits and less preventive care, especially among the young and elderly.

   Development of health infrastructure and preventative care is crucial to the wellbeing of border communities; addressing environmental factors that are directly linked to health problems is a critical component. One way to reduce air pollution is to invest in trade access and facilities and thereby reduce idle times. Increased transit efficiency will also permit industry to spread out along the border, easing concentration of carbon emissions (smog). Technology sharing for more efficient production of goods can also reduce general pollution and waste. However, trade development will clearly not be enough. Public health is a joint concern that will require strong cooperation between the United States and Mexico. The highly transient population of the border regions will seek care on whichever side of the border provides them the best quality and most accessible health-care. Therefore, both the U.S. and Mexico must invest in public health infrastructure or risk overwhelming one side; otherwise both sides may fail to invest at all for fear of creating a system they will be unable to maintain.