Global Trade, Local Impacts: Lessons from California on Health Impacts and Environmental Justice Concerns for Residents Living near Freight Rail Yards

This study was published yesterday in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.  The authors are Moving Forward Network participants Andrea Hricko and Angelo Logan, and other researchers from the University of Southern California.

This is a must read study for anyone concerned with Environmental Justice and public health.  

The recommendations made by the authors provide a path forward for improving the health of millions of people, and should be integrated into freight transportation planning at all levels.

This Open Access article may be freely reproduced and distributed, as long as the source is cited.  Please share it widely!

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Abstract: Global trade has increased nearly 100-fold since 1950, according to the World Trade Organization. Today, major changes in trade are occurring with the advent of mega-ships that can transport thousands more containers than cargo ships now in use. Because global trade is expected to increase dramatically, the railroad industry—in the U.S. alone—has invested more than $5 billion a year over the past decade to expand rail yards and enhance rail routes to transport goods from ports to retail destinations. This article describes cancer risks for residents living in close proximity to rail yards with emissions of diesel particulate matter pollution from locomotives, trucks and yard equipment. The article examines the demographics (income, race/ethnicity) of populations living in the highest estimated cancer risk zones near 18 major rail yards in California, concluding that the majority are over-represented by either lower-income or minority residents (or both). The authors also describe a review of the news media and environmental impact reports to determine if rail yards are still being constructed or expanded in close proximity to homes and schools or in working class/working poor communities of color. The paper suggests policy efforts that might provide more public health protection and result in more “environmentally just” siting of rail yards. The authors conclude that diesel pollution from rail yards, which creates significant diesel cancer risks for those living near the facilities, is an often overlooked public health, health disparities and environmental justice issue in the U.S. The conclusions are relevant to other countries where international trade is increasing and large new intermodal rail facilities are being considered.
Keywords: air pollution; diesel exhaust; environmental health; environmental justice; exposure; health disparities; international trade; land use; particulate matter; race/ethnicity; rail

Click here to view the article online.  Click here to download it.