The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are the single largest source of air pollution in southern California – causing asthma rates for children living in port-adjacent communities such as Long Beach to be almost twice as high as the rest of the U.S. Pollution related to the ports and goods movement in California causes more than 2,400 premature deaths annually and cancer risk rates up to 20 times higher than federal clean air standards.1 These residents more often than not are from low-income, communities of color.
In a recent economic analysis of school absences and ozone levels in Southern California, the authors estimated that $68 million a year could be saved if ozone levels in the south Coast Air Basin were further reduced, thereby improving children’s health.2
The Ports are responsible for more deadly diesel soot and smog each day than all of the 6 million cars in the region. Our health professionals routinely see the effects of this air pollution in their patients, and we are calling for drastic changes.
More on these topics:
- Health Impacts of Air Pollution Associated With Goods Movement
- Studies Linking Health Disparities and Air Pollution
- What does Good Clean Air Policy Look Like?
- I-710 Coalition and the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice (CEHAJ)
Air Pollution has a disproportionate impact on people of color and low-income communities:
- Children of color in California are 3 times more likely than white children to live in census block areas with high-density traffic.3
- African American children in LA County are twice as likely to have been diagnosed with asthma, currently suffer from, or undergone an asthma attack within the last year than all other ethnicities.4
- African American and Latino children attending LAUSD schools bear a higher lifetime cancer risk from exposure to toxic air contaminants than children from other communities.5
Numerous studies have documented that residents living in communities adjacent to ports and truck-congested freeways who breathe air full of traffic-related pollutants have elevated rates of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and reduced lung function. For example, adults who live in areas where there is heavy traffic have between 20-34% greater risk of contracting lung cancer.
This state of affairs calls for more rigorous, local, state and national emission controls on ships, trains and trucks and the port and rail facilities that move our goods across Los Angeles and beyond. Such controls should place public health on par with other interests such as the promotion and expansion of international trade. PSR-LA is working with its partners to reduce emissions and improve the quality of air for residents living in southern California.
Health Effects Associated with Goods Movement in California -2005 — Particulate Matter and Ozone-related
|Health Outcome||Cases Per Year|
|Hospital Admissions (Respiratory Causes)||2,000|
|Hospital Admissions (Cardiovascular Causes)||830|
|Asthma and Other Lower Respiratory Symptoms||62,000|
|Work Loss Days||360,000|
|Minor Restricted Activity Days||3,900,000|
|School Absence Days||1,100,000|
- The Onset of Asthma
- Lung Growth Dysfunction
- Lower Birth Weight
- Infant Death Syndrome
- Premature Death
- Increased Incidences of Cardiovascular Disease and Death
- Considers all sources of pollution in a community (i.e. cumulative impacts) prior to making land use decisions.
- Calculates the health and environment costs-both human and monetary that are borne by residents when permits are approved for projects
- Incorporates mechanisms for community participation into all policy decisions
- Utilizes a precautionary, “do no harm” approach
PSR-LA is a founding member of the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice (CEHAJ), a coalition of community-based, health, environmental and environmental justice organizations dedicated to advancing and promoting demands for health, clean air, and improved quality of life along the I-710 Long Beach Freeway Corridor.
In 2001, local and state government agencies began the I-710 Major Corridor Study to look at options for expanding the 710 Long Beach Freeway. In response to an outpouring of opposition from residents and advocates government agencies created a system for community input, known as Tier I and Tier 2 Community Advisory Committees.
In August of 2004, the Tier 2 Committee completed a report which included a number of recommendations for the proposed I-710 project including health, economic development, safety, noise, congestion, community enhancements, design concepts, environmental justice and process. The major finding of the report was that health is the overriding consideration for the community and that air emissions must be cleaned up prior to any new construction or infrastructure projects being approved.
The Tier 2 report also outlined several recommendations for approval of any major infrastructure improvements. Specifically, the report challenged project planners to meet two conditions related to air quality prior to breaking ground on the I-710 project:
- Implementation of a corridor level action plan to improve air quality.
- Major infrastructure improvements must be conditioned on achieving the following air quality goals:
- Corridor air quality must comply with state and national ambient air quality standards and
- The project as a whole must result in a net reduction in criteria pollutants.
PSR-LA and CEHAJ advocated at the local level for the development and implementation of the 710 corridor-level Air Quality Action Plan.
CEHAJ successfully advocated for a Health Impact Assessment to be conducted on the I-710 Corridor project to better assess the project’s impact on health. However, the DEIR fails to include the analysis from the Health Impact Assessment in its more than 10,000 page EIR report. Indeed, in a case study of the HIA, Jonathan Heller, Director and Co-founder of Health Impact Partners, describes decision makers as being closed to HIA’s findings: “Without a commitment to equity and democracy on the part of those controlling the HIA process, and without power in the hands of those who support these values, HIA can become another technocratic tool that supports those in power who are interested in maintaining the status quo.”
In June, Caltrans released its Draft Environmental Impact Report, required under the California Environmental Quality Act, for the proposed project. The over 10,000 page report analyzes six potential designs, called alternatives, including a “no-build” option. All but the “no build” alternative will result in a total of ten general purpose lanes on the freeway–five lanes in each direction. Some of the design alternatives also include an additional four truck lanes for either general use trucks or for zero emission trucks. The recently released Environmental Impact Assessment (EIR) for the project describes and analyzes each of the Alternatives.
PSR-LA’s role as a public health advocate is instrumental. We are training health professionals to provide comment on the DEIR on the project’s impact on health. By amplifying the health professional voice, we can raise the profile of community health concerns.
1California Air Resources Board. 2006. http://www.arb.ca.gov/homepage.htm.
2Hall et al. Economic Valuation of Ozone-Related School Absences in the South Coast Air Basin of California. 2002.
3Gunier et al. J. Expo. Annal Environ. Epidemiology, 2003.
4LA County Health Survey 2005.
5Morello-Frosch et al. Annual American Academy of Political and Social Sciences. 2002.