Protecting Kids from Traffic and Polluted Air

Share Carolina Martinez’ conversation with Yesenia Ceballos and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

Yesenia Ceballos had long been concerned about her children’s safety negotiating the traffic and toxic paint vapors coming from the auto body and repair shops in her neighborhood near the port in Old Town National City, California. She was intrigued when she met up with friends who were celebrating a hard-won victory to have street lights and crossing signs to protect children from the traffic. She asked them why their t-shirts all said “EHC,” and that began her involvement with the Environmental Health Coalition.

Carolina Martinez, Policy Advocate with Environmental Health Coalition in National City California, spoke with Yesenia Ceballos, environmental justice promoter in Old Town National City about what motivates her to improve quality of life in her neighborhood. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

YESENIA CEBALLOS: Tenemos los talleres de mecánica, talleres de carrocería y pintura, talleres de soldadura, tenemos muchos contaminantes, tenemos el freeway 5 que está muy cerca de aquí de nuestras escuelas, de nuestras casas. Entonces tenemos revuelto lo que son casas y negocios, entonces eso es una bomba constante para nuestros niños … Por ejemplo, yo vivo a dos calles, a dos casas de ahí de ahí de uno de estos talleres, en donde pintan barcos. Entonces, todo ese olor de pintura sale, diariamente están pintando carr—barcos, igual carros también hay muchos talleres cerca. Entonces, a tres casas más está la escuela, entonces todo esto lo están respirando nuestros niños cuando salen a hacer su deporte, ellos están respirando todo esto. Entonces, si juntamos lo del freeway, lo del puerto, porque también tenemos un puerto cerca. Entonces, si juntamos todos esos contaminantes, es algo que está dañando nuestros niños, sus pulmones, que puede causarles asma, son muchos factores que tienen ellos.

 

YESENIA CEBALLOS: There are mechanical workshops, paint and body shops, welding shops, and there are many contaminants, and on top of that Freeway 5, which is very close to our schools and our houses. Therefore, we lived on top of each other, houses and businesses scrambled together, which was a ticking bomb for our children … For example, I live two blocks away, two houses from one of these repair shops, where they paint ships. Every day, all that paint odor comes out, because of all the paint they use for ships, and there are also many paint shops for cars nearby. Three blocks after, there is the school. So all our children are breathing this when they go out and play sports, they are breathing all of this. Then, if we combine the pollution from the freeway and the port–because we also have a port nearby–, well, if we combine all these, it is really harming our children. Damaging their lungs, which can cause asthma, there are many factors involved.

 

Es una lucha constante hacer que estas industrias y negocios tengan en cuenta nuestro bienestar. El puerto tiene un gran impacto en la salud de nosotros, y debe tomar responsabilidad con sus vecinos. Pero esto no pasa si nosotros no estamos ahí, luchando, participando para que este cambio se pueda hacer. Nosotros también tenemos derecho a vivir en una comunidad saludable. 

 

It is a constant struggle to make these industries and businesses aware of our wellbeing. The port has a major impact on our health, and we should take responsibility for our community. However, this will not happen if we are not there, fighting and participating to make this change happen. Because we also have the right to live in a healthy community.

PLEASE JOIN Carolina and Yesenia in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation using the social media buttons above to show your support for #ZeroEmissionsNow.

LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in San Diego County by following Environmental Health Coalition.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.

Toxic Dust, Love and Asthma: A Mother’s Story in the Imperial Valley

Share Onyx and Humberto’s conversation and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

Onyx Bazulto lives in the Imperial Valley in Southern California, where air quality is poor and one in five children has asthma. Her community of Brawley is located between the Salton Sea and the border crossing at Calexico-Mexicali, along a heavily traveled freight corridor.

Humberto Hugo, policy advocate with Comite Civico Del Valle, spoke with Onyx about what motivates her to do community health and education work. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

ONYX BAZULTO: I decided to take that step to change my community because I, for one, care for my family and their health. Both my daughter and I and my mom have asthma and ever since we moved to the Imperial Valley we’ve had many issues of allergies — having to go to the hospital plenty of times because of symptoms of asthma.

 

The first step I took to do something in our community was research and speaking out to family, friends and neighbors who were dealing with the same issues.

 

We live in a dust bowl, below sea level. Every other coastal area — all their pollution surrounds us and sinks in, as well as the incoming diesel contamination from the international exchange of goods.

 

Where I live, not even 10 feet away … trucks have found our nearby gas station to be a truck stop. Every day, every night, you’ll see a long row of semis idling their vehicles for long periods of time. And you know I live right next to the gas station. So I can see a lot of dust enter my home. And then you can smell the smog. So I never have my windows open. And it causes a lot of coughing for my daughter. I always have to be careful. She can’t even play outside.

 

I frequently have to dust, sweep, mop my home to lift the dust and dirt. I have to change AC air filters more than two times a month. It’s a rare joy to open my door and windows. When I do, a lot of dust comes in.

 

I would really love to have our community become more aware of their surrounding environmental justice issues and have them advocate to defend themselves.

PLEASE JOIN Onyx Bazulto and Humberto Hugo in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and show your support.

LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in the Imperial Valley by following Comite Civico Del Valle.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.

From Ecuador to Seattle, a mother driven by belief in the right to a healthy environment

Share Paulina’s interview and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

Paulina López moved to Seattle from Ecuador, where she was involved in community organizing with indigenous people on issues such as health and education. She is the mother of three boys in elementary school and has contributed her time for a decade as the volunteer president for South Park Information Resource Center, a grassroots community organization that supports the civic engagement of recent immigrants, with special focus on women. She is passionate about advocating for underrepresented communities, and has been concerned with environmental justice issues uniquely affecting South Park’s recent immigrant communities, such as the clean-up of the Duwamish River.

Paulina was interviewed by Dionne Foster, who was a Policy Analyst at Puget Sound Sage at the time of the interview (and now works for the city of Seattle), about what motivated her activism and what hopes she has for the future. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

PAULINE LOPEZ: A long time ago, when I moved here to South Park, I realized the need we had to get people more involved in civic engagement, civic process – just people more involved in how to build a community.

 

Big decisions were being (made) and the neighbors were not being part of the decisions. For example, in 2005 there was a big document that the city was writing on how to make South Park a better community, and the participation from Latinos was zero. So I started to wonder, “Why are the voices of the main population that exists in South Park not at the table?” … and that’s how the South Park Information Resource Center came up.

 

Unfortunately the environment is very poor … I love my neighborhood, I love South Park, but it does make you wonder if you’re doing the right thing by having your little ones here.

 

One of the things that struck me once – I was talking to a teenager, and we were explaining about the asthma rates being so high in South Park, and she was saying, “You know I always grew up with asthma but I thought it was a normal thing because all my classmates in school have it.” And I thought, “What?!” It can be so big that they think it’s a normal part of life to have asthma.

 

South Park has a lot of needs, but I always concentrate on the assets. We have a very strong community of advocates … We have a very large immigrant and refugee population here … The Vietnamese population is closer to the highway so they were very concerned about emissions from the trucks. They have been very active on what can we do to improve. They’ve been giving us ideas. So I think it’s been important to hear from everyone.

 

Sometimes words like “environmental justice” doesn’t really read to them until you explain: “health” for you. “Oh, health, yes, health, I’m very worried about the health of my kids.” So I hope whatever we can do together will benefit the grassroots level of our community in ways that will be meaningful to them.

PLEASE JOIN Paulina López and Dionne Foster in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and show your support.

LEARN MORE about the work Paulina and Dionne are doing to improve the quality of life in Seattle by following South Park Information and Resource Center and Puget Sound Sage.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.

Entonces Ahorita Estamos a Tiempo en Hacer Este Cambio

Share Laura Cortez’ conversation with Maribel Mireles and show your support for the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

 

Maribel Mireles lives in Long Beach, California and became involved in environmental justice organizing after her son was diagnosed with asthma. She has been advocating for policies that would reduce truck traffic and diesel pollution from the port of Long Beach.

 

Maribel was interviewed by Laura Cortez, Assistant Project Manager for Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

 

MARIBEL MIRELES: El primer paso que tome para convertirme en una persona de cambio en nuestra comunidad fue mi hijo, porque el fue diagnosticado con asma. Entonces eso fue lo que me motivo a interesarme en este tema porque la verdad no estaba muy enterada de lo que era el asma y lo que conllevaba en asma. Y los cuidados que tenía que tener con esa enfermera.

The first step I took in becoming a change agent in my community was my son, because he was diagnosed with asthma. That is what motivated me to become interested in this topic because I really wasn’t informed about what asthma was and what it entailed. And the care he needed to get from the nurse.

El impacto que yo tengo en mi vida es que — yo vivo en el norte de Long Beach y estoy en un cruzo de dos autopistas importantes de aquí y en el sur de California. Son la 710 y el 91. También estoy un poco cerca al puerto de Long Beach entonces los camiones pasan diariamente por la autopista para llegar a cargar su mercancía. Entonces estos camiones después toman la interestatal 91 para dirigirse hacia los valles, hacia lo que es Riverside y donde están las bodegas más grandes. Entonces esa afecta nuestra salud por el diesel que emiten esos camiones. Y esto a su vez tiene un efecto dómino porque con el tiempo pues más gente se va enfermar de asma. Más niños y más adultos.

The impact it has in my life is that — I live in North Long Beach and I’m by two important freeways in southern California. The 710 and the 91. I’m also a little close to the port of Long Beach, so the trucks pass on a daily basis through the freeway to go and load their merchandise. Then these trucks take the 91 freeway to head to the valleys, toward Riverside where there are large warehouses. This impacts our health because of all the diesel pollution that is emitted from the trucks. And this has a domino effect because with time more people are going to get asthma. More children and more adults.

El tema más importante en el que estamos trabajando en la organización de LBACA para mi es la expansión del 710 y eso es algo que afecta a miles de personas, tanto niños como adultos porque solamente en la ciudad de Long Beach tenemos más de 15,000 niños con asma. Entonces que nos espera en un futuro cuando se expanda el freeway? Cuantas más emisiones de diesel van a ver con una expansión así tan grande y cuantos niños mas van a sufrir las consecuencias de esta expansión?

For me one of the most important topics we are working on in the LBACA (Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma) organization is the 710 expansion because it impacts thousands of people, not just kids but adults as well. In Long Beach we have more than 15,000 children with asthma. So what can we expect in the future if this freeway is expanded? How much more diesel emission would there be with that huge expansion and how many more children will suffer the consequences for this expansion?

Pues que piensemos en el futuro de nuestros hijos y nuestros nietos que ellos son los que van a quedar con esto, estos contaminantes que afectan no solamente en el asma sino también es algo cancerifico que también provoca el cáncer. Entonces ahorita estamos a tiempo en hacer este cambio.

Let’s think of the future of our kids and grandkids because they are the ones that will be stuck with this, these pollutants that not only affect asthma but can also be carcinogenic and lead to cancer. We are in time to make a change.

PLEASE JOIN Maribel Mirales and Laura Cortez in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and show your support.

LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in Long Beach by following Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.