Port of Oakland air pollution violates the civil rights of the community – Feds to investigate

 

Photo: CHRIS JORDAN-BLOCH / EARTHJUSTICE

Many of the effects of diesel exhaust and other traffic-related air pollution are known and widely accepted  – including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and triggering of asthma attacks. In addition, studies have shown that the more air pollution a person is exposed to, the more likely they are to suffer from many other maladies and illnesses, including premature birth, autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and cognitive decline.

To top it off, a study of 60 million adults release just a couple of weeks ago shows that Particulate matter air pollution kills many elderly people in the U.S., even at levels the EPA considers ‘safe’.

And study after study has shown that the people most often subjected to high levels of air pollution are disproportionally poor and non-white.  

Residents of West Oakland, California know all of this from first-hand experience.  Residents of this port community, who are predominately black and Latino, are exposed to much more air pollution than richer and whiter residents just a few miles away. West Oakland has 90 times more diesel pollution per square mile on average than the rest of California, resulting in high levels of asthma and other diseases known or suspected to be caused by air pollution.

After fighting for decades to make their communities safer and being ignored all too often by local government, West Oakland residents have made it clear they are not going to take it anymore.  In April, Moving Forward Network members West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) and Earthjustice teamed up to file a federal civil rights complaint demanding that the Federal government provide them the same levels of protection as people in whiter, richer communities, specifically when making decisions concerning the Port of Oakland the Oakland Army Base redevelopment project.

 “Time and time again, both the city and port have dismissed the consistent input and opposition to their actions from directly impacted West Oakland residents, nearly 80 percent of whom are people of color,” 

The complaint says the city has engaged in a “pattern of neglect and systemic disregard” for the health and well being of West Oakland residents, which will only get worse as the city redevelops the former Oakland Army base. And, it alleges the port’s continuous expansion of maritime activities has consistently failed to incorporate adequate measures to mitigate the elevated pollution levels. The complaint asked that the two Federal agencies that provide the funds and approvals for port projects put measures in place to protect them.  

This week, the agencies sent this letter to the City and Port of Oakland stating that they will investigate the complaint.

For more information, check out the resources below, and stay tuned for more news as it develops.

Community group alleges civil rights violations by the city and port of Oakland in complaint to Federal government, Earthjustice

When pollution discriminates: Feds to investigate alleged civil rights violations in West Oakland, Mercury News

A black community in Oakland says pollution is violating its civil rights, Grist

This army base once drove West Oakland’s economy. Now it drives discrimination, Grist

Particulate matter air pollution kills many elderly people in the U.S., even at levels the EPA considers ‘safe’

A study of over 60 million American seniors recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that long-term exposure to particulate matter air pollution raises the risk of premature death of people over 65 years of age, even at levels well below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.  

In urban areas, diesel exhaust is one of the main sources of particulate matter, along with coal-fired power plants.

“We are now providing bulletproof evidence that we breathing harmful air.  It is very strong compelling evidence that currently, the safety standards are not safe enough.”  Francesca Dominici,  co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative.

The study, “Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population”, found that the risks of premature death were highest in men, low-income elders, and blacks, with blacks having mortality risks three times higher than the general population.

The study authors reported that lowering particulate matter air pollution in the U.S. by just 1 microgram per cubic meter would save 12,000 lives per year.  The current EPA annual average health standard for P.M. 2.5 is 12 micrograms per cubic meter.

Joel Schwartz, Harvard University professor of environmental epidemiology and the study’s senior author said “This study shows that although we think air quality in the United States is good enough to protect our citizens, in fact we need to lower pollution levels even further.”

To learn more, check out the excellent NPR audio news report or other references below. 

 Study: Even Low-Level Air Pollution Kills the Elderly, Medpage Today

60-Million-Strong Study Shows Clear Link Between Exposure To Air Pollution & Premature Death, CleanTechnica

Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population, New England Journal of Medicine

New Harvard Study: There is No “Safe Level” of Exposure to Smog or Particulate Matter. Downwinders at risk

Coalition for Healthy Ports shows dirty diesel trucks are killing residents; demands reinstatement of plan to ban the dirtiest trucks

Photo: Edited image from the Village Voice

The Coalition for Healthy Ports NY NJ, which includes Moving Forward Network members Clean Water Action and the Ironbound Community Corporation, as well as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union and faculty of the Rutgers School of Public Health, released a very informative report yesterday, and called for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to reinstate a planned ban on dirty diesel trucks manufactured before 2007.

Unless ports set healthier standards, economic pressures generally lead to the use of the very oldest and dirtiest trucks on the roads to haul freight from ports to warehouses, and this problem is exacerbated in and around the Ports of New York and New Jersey by a huge amount of trucking through neighborhoods around the ports.  

Diesel exhaust causes a host of diseases, including cancer and strokes, and triggers dangerous and sometimes deadly asthma attacks.  Diesel exhaust has been strongly linked to many other diseases, including many serious neurological problems, though the science is not yet advanced enough to prove causality.  Just this week a study of 60 million Medicaid recipients showed that the more particulate matter a person is exposed to, the more likely they are to die prematurely.  In urban areas, diesel exhaust is the primary source of particulate matter.

The Coalition’s report showed that residents throughout their eight-county study area face an increased risk of premature death due to the failure of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to ban the dirtiest diesel trucks, including residents who live far from the port.  For more information, see the original report or news articles linked below.

Complete report

Evaluation of the Port of New York & New Jersey Clean Trucks Program Rollback

 More information on the study and demands to reinstate the ban on old trucks

Coalition Urges Port Authority to enforce old diesel truck ban, NJ.com

NY-NJ under pressure to revive ban on older truck engines, Journal of Commerce (Free subscription required)

 Air pollution and health

There Is No ‘Safe’ Level Of Pollution — Even Small Amounts Lead To Premature Death, Kaiser Health News

West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project research reveals dangerous pollution hotspots

As the Moving Forward Network members that do air pollution monitoring know from on-the-ground experience, EPA regulatory air monitors may show an area to have low levels of particulate matter from diesel exhaust and other air pollution when in fact, nearby hot spots can have high and dangerous levls of air pollution.

For example, while the city’s only EPA regulatory monitor showed air was relatively clean, monitoring by the Diesel Health Project around the BNSF Argentine Rail Yard in Kansas City, Kansas revealed dangerous levels of elemental carbon (an indicator of Diesel Exhaust pollution) in nearby resident’s yards, very likely from a nearby locomotive maintenance yard at which as many as 50 locomotives at a time, many running, await load testing.

Currently, measuring air pollution in overburdened neighborhoods at a high enough level of granularity to comprehensively identify hot spots is very difficult and expensive, and beyond the capabilities of most environmental justice and other community organizations.  

However, research published this week shows how this can be done – and that the results are of great value.  A study carried out by MFN member West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), the Environmental Defense Fund, Aclima, and the University of Texas at Austin using data collected by Google Street View cars produced findings that were concerning and surprising.

Most significantly, the data shows pollution variations within single blocks in Oakland of as high as 5X, and revealed hotspots that were often very persistent and stable.  

The wide range of pollution levels and the persistence of hotspots tells us something else – in many cases workers and residents are being exposed to much higher levels of pollution and hence higher health risks than they or anyone else knows. We need to build on this research to develop the capability of community-based groups to conduct this level of monitoring in overburdened neighborhoods throughout the U.S.  There are children growing up in these neighborhoods who will sooner or later suffer from underdeveloped lungs, asthma, heart disease, cancer, and other health problems.  The sooner we identify and clean up these hot spots, the more people we can save from air pollution’s health effects, misery, and in some cases, premature death.  

To learn more, view the excellent video with commentary by WOEIP founders Margaret Gordon and Brian Beveridge or read the news articles linked below.  For a deeper dive, click the last link to read the entire journal article.

Google collects air pollution data using Street View cars and offers it to scientists, VentureBeat

Google shares Street View pollution maps, Left Lane News

Tracking Air Quality Block By Block, California Healthline

High-Resolution Air Pollution Mapping with Google Street View Cars: Exploiting Big Data, (complete study) Environmental Science and Technology

mark! Lopez of EYCEJ wins Goldman Environmental Prize!

Photo: Courtesy EYCEJ: Mark! Lopez, Dr. Robert Bullard, Taylor Thomas, and Zully Juarez

mark! Lopez, executive director of MFN member East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ) was awarded the 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize yesterday.

mark! is a third generation resident of East L.A, and member of a family with a long history of community activism.  His grandparents cofounded Madres del Este de Los Angeles Santa Isabel (Mothers of  East LA Santa Isabel – MELASI), and he has continued that tradition through years of work with the EYCEJ.

The Goldman Environmental Prize is widely viewed as the highest environmental accolade possible.  It “honors grassroots environmental heroes from the world’s six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, and South & Central America” for “sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment…”

To learn more, check out the video and linked news articles below, and read about his award at The Goldman Environmental Prize.

Congratulations mark! Lopez!!

Estadounidense Mark López gana el premio ambiental Goldman 2017 por liderar lucha contra la contaminación de plomo y arsénico en Los Ángeles, Univision

 Goldman Environmental Prize winners work hard to protect planet, SFGate

EPA to conduct goods movement pilot projects with MFN member Harambee House & others

Since its inception, the Moving Forward Network (MFN) has worked to advance environmental justice as a priority within the EPA and other agencies.  Thanks to the hard work of the network and its members to bring together community organizing, media, and science, we have seen some great advances by the EPA, including a stated intent in the EJ 2020 plan and elsewhere to reduce goods movement air pollution and improve public health in overburdened communities.

Among the initiatives in which our members are involved is a project by the EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) to develop a series of guides intended to help port communities build capacity and for ports and port communities to engage and reduce air pollution  – the Ports Primer, Community Action Roadmap, and Environmental Justice Primer.

The guides are now in draft, and the EPA has selected three organizations or partnerships with which to test and refine the guides, enhance community skills, develop action plans, and address community needs.  Among those selected is an MFN member, Harambee House, Inc. of Savannah, Georgia.  

The MFN and its members have been effective in moving the agency when we organize, and are willing to collaborate and work with the EPA when it furthers our agenda of protecting overburdened communities.

To review the draft guides and learn more about these projects, see the following, received last week from the EPA:

Read More

New research shows traffic-related air pollution may lead to dementia in older women

Image: USC School of Gerontology

Scientists at the University of Southern California published research yesterday that shows that Particulate Matter air pollution from power plants and vehicles may greatly increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Their work indicates that air pollution may be responsible for over 20 percent of dementia cases.  Their study was published in the Nature journal Translational Psychiatry.

Over 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimers Disease, and it is estimated that almost 14 million people will be afflicted by 2050.  To learn more, see the video or references below.

The USC Research

The surprising link between air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease, LA Times

Air pollution linked to Alzheimer’s disease, study says, Press Enterprise

Air pollution may lead to dementia in older women, USC School of Gerontology

Background

Diesel exhaust linked to magnetic particles in our brains and Alzheimer’s Disease, Moving Forward Network

Air Pollution May Be The Cause Of Alzheimer’s Disease, Innotrendz

2016 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures, Alzheimers and Dementia Journal

Scientists say exercising in heavy air pollution is bad for your heart

A European study of 16,000 people found that air pollution impairs the function of blood vessels in the lungs, and that exercise could cause lung damage and heart failure. The lead scientist in the study, cardiologist Jean-Francois Argacha said: “Our main advice is to limit physical activities during heavy air pollution.”

 Despite numerous studies showing strong links between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, this study is the first to demonstrate the effects of air pollution on pulmonary vascular function.

Our main advice is to limit physical activities during heavy air pollution.

For more information, check out the press release from the European Society of Cardiology, or the two other linked articles, provided for background.

Air pollution impairs function of blood vessels in lungs, European Society of Cardiology

For background

Air Pollution and Heart Disease, Stroke, American Heart Association

How Air Pollution Contributes to Heart Disease, Physicians for Social Responsibility

 

Fostering Environmental Literacy in Kansas City

Share Leticia DeCaigny’s conversation with Richard Mabion and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

Richard Mabion is president of the Kansas City, Kansas branch of the NAACP and a board member of the Kansas Sierra Club. He created Building A Sustainable Earth Community to draw more people of color to the environmental sustainability movement.

Leticia DeCaigny, leader of the Argentine/Turner Good Neighbor Committee and Diesel Health Project community organizer, spoke with Richard Mabion about how he began advocating for his community around environmental issues and his hopes for the future. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

 

LETICIA DECAIGNY: What in your life experience prepared you to be a changemaker?

 

RICHARD MABION: You’re getting all my little trade secrets, aren’t you? (Laughs) My mother was the last president for the PTA for the “Negro school system” in the state of Kansas. When they had the Brown vs. Topeka court settlement my mother was president … So when you grow up in that kind of environment, you have an emphasis on education in your face every day, and you have an emphasis for change, and you grow up with one of those “can do” attitudes. And so actually it’s like being a Christian. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. We went to church on Sunday and we were raised to be changemakers.

 

LD: So how does the pollution in our community impact you and others.

 

RM: The portion of the population that we represent is the low-income community. And the problem with pollution in the low-income community is lack of education. No one has really taken the time to stop and education the public about what it is that they’re even dealing with. And that’s what makes what you and I do very special. Because … we’re in a position to make sure the everyday person can learn environmental literacy, can learn about pollution. And it doesn’t have to end up like it was in Flint, where the people were totally out of the loop when it came to their own water.

 

LD: What is your greatest hope for positive change in your lifetime and how can we all be a part of that change?

 

RM: Harmony. Being able to live as an American public. I think that that’s another thing the environmental movement can produce … That’s what David Korten was talking about with the Great Turning. That if we all start working for the benefit of this planet then we’ll all be working for the benefit for each other. And that’s the ultimate that I’d like to see this planet become.

 

I don’t know how many more years of life I have. I’d like to think 100. But realistically what I’m doing is to assist and pass some wisdom on to your age group, so that you’ll be able to use it as stepping stones to take us where we need to go as a human race.

PLEASE JOIN Leticia and Richard 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 Kansas City, Kansas by following the Diesel Health Project.

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

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.

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