Despite California’s reputation as a leader on climate and environmental issues, Los Angeles is home to some of the worst air pollution in the country. The region routinely fails to meet federal air quality standards, and suffers from high levels of ozone pollution and smog. Los Angeles is also home to widespread urban oil drilling, which drives air pollution and global climate change, while harming the health of local residents. Air pollution is linked to higher rates of asthma, respiratory problems, and cancer risk. In particular, low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to live in close proximity to the facilities that pollute the air and warm the planet, and experience worse health outcomes as a result of these exposures.

Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA works to protect vulnerable communities by reducing emissions that harm human health and speed global climate change. This includes advocating for direct emission reductions at both regional and state levels, working to end oil drilling in Los Angeles, and ensuring that we transition to an economy that is fueled by clean, renewable energy and that provides economic benefits to all communities without harming health.

What are the problems?

  • Throughout the state, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately burdened by environmental health hazards. Race is the most significant predictor of a person living near contaminated air, water, or soil, and people of color make up more than half of the population living near toxic waste sites.
  • South Los Angeles is ranked in the top 10% most polluted communities in the state, and is overburdened with industrial facilities, hazardous waste, and contaminated land. (CalEnviroScreen2.0)
  • Land use incompatibility – the practice of siting incompatible land uses in close proximity to each other, such as a polluting facility near a residential neighborhood, school, or hospital – contributes to poor health outcomes. South Central Los Angeles experiences high levels of land use incompatibility.
  • Several Los Angeles communities contain facilities that emit toxic pollution. In Southeast Los Angeles – predominately a community of color – roughly 1/5 of its residents live adjacent to noxious land uses.
  • South LA lacks green spaces and parks, as well as sufficient transit and active transportation infrastructure, and is facing an affordable housing crisis (Health Atlas)
  • Residents of South LA are expected to live nearly 12 years less than residents of Brentwood, in addition to experiencing higher rates of lung cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Why does it matter?

  • Healthy environments are an important part of creating healthy communities. Where you live should not determine whether you have clean air to breathe.
  • Air pollution directly affects health and our ability to breathe, and contributes to asthma and other respiratory complications. People exposed to elevated levels of air pollutants are more vulnerable to adverse health outcomes.
  • Human health is impacted by climate change, and these effects are felt first and worst by low-income communities of color. If left unaddressed, existing health disparities will be exacerbated.
  • Oil extraction practices operate next to our homes, schools, and hospitals. People living near oil extraction sites routinely experience health symptoms such as nosebleeds, headaches, dizziness, and nausea, along with nuisances like odors and noise from operations
  • Oil extraction techniques use large quantities of chemicals that are harmful to human health, including known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.


What are some solutions?

  • Policies and regulations must prioritize people and health over industry profit. We need to foster a just and thriving economy that provides jobs and other economic benefits for communities without compromising their health.
  • We need state-level policies that protect health, transition us away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy sources, and address the disproportionate impacts felt by low-income communities and communities of color.
  • Strong health-protective plans are needed at local, regional, state, and national regulatory agencies in order to ensure that Californians have healthy air to breathe
  • In order to help cool the planet and clean up the air, we need regulations that directly reduce emissions at the source, rather than incentive and market-based solutions that allow industries to pay to pollute.
  • Climate investments should not only focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but should also be directly invested in the low-income communities and communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by climate change and its related health impacts.
  • Regulating short-lived climate pollutants is a key piece of an aggressive climate and air strategy. Due to their shorter lifespan in the atmosphere, reducing these super pollutants will bring short and long term benefits for both the climate and air quality.
  • Ending neighborhood drilling is the local climate fight in Los Angeles. If we can stop urban oil extraction and keep it in the ground here where people live, we can stop climate change at the source, while also improving health for frontline communities.

Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling (STAND)

PSR-LA is Co-Chair of STAND-LA, an environmental justice coalition of community groups that seeks to end neighborhood drilling to protect the health and safety of Angelenos on the front lines of urban oil extraction. Learn more about the coalition at


Learn More

For more information on our Air & Climate Justice program, contact:

Eric Romann, STAND LA Coalition Coordinator,, 213-689-9170 ext. 109