Touring Los Angeles, California Through a Toxic Lens

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Port of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California

When visiting Los Angeles, one of the first things that often comes to mind is taking a tour of Hollywood or Beverly Hills. But how about opting for a Toxic Tour instead? The Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), an environmental justice organization that empowers people directly affected by pollution to solve their own problems, has been giving Toxic Tours since 1995. The purpose of these tours is to increase the public awareness of the minority communities and low-income communities that are most directly impacted by various sources of toxins and pollution.

Communities for a Better Environment offers a tour to the general public every quarter, which can either be narrated in English or Spanish by community organizer Roberto Cabrales. The toxic tour may focus in any of the following industrial neighborhoods, which include Bell, Huntington Park, Long Beach, San Pedro, Vernon, or Wilmington. In the tour one will see any of the following sites:

Such sites represent an environmental hazard and generate serious health problems to the residents of the communities, which are predominantly working class Latinos.

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Refinery in Wilmington, Los Angeles, California

Recent research conducted in the Los Angeles area primarily by scientists of the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC), has found that there is a correlation between people living in proximity to freeways and a range of health problems that include asthma, reduced lung functioning, cardiovascular disease, and autism. In fact, the area that extends from Long Beach to East Los Angeles, is often referred to as the diesel death zone,” since emissions from trucks, ships, trains, and other diesel-powered sources are common here. Despite the decline in emissions around the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach due to the implementation of new technologies—such as clean-truck program—the severe levels of pollution remain. Furthermore, hot spots for cancer-causing traffic pollutants have been found throughout the area, especially along the 710 freeway—which extends from Long Beach to Alhambra.

Given this reality, it is necessary to bring awareness to the public about the environmental and health hazards that residents of some of our communities must endure. Moreover, it is important to empower these populations by providing them with organizing skills, leadership training, as well as legal, scientific and technical assistance. However, it is also the obligation of policy makers and government officials to address these issues through legislation and initiatives.

Do you live in a community that is exposed to environmental hazards? What steps are being taken by policy makers and government officials in your community to address the issue(s)? 

Credits: Images by Marisol Maciel-Cervantes. Data linked to sources.

*This blog was originally posted in August 2015. H/T The Global Grid

 

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Los Angeles’ Health Atlas Spurs General Plans’ Adoption of Health & Wellness

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Harbor City, Los Angeles, California

In June of 2013, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released the Health Atlas for the City of Los Angeles. The document was the first step to better understanding the areas within the City of Los Angeles that are currently burdened with the most adverse health-related conditions. The Health Atlas analyses how demographic conditions, social and economic factors, the physical environment, access to health care, and health behavior play a role in the health of city residents. Specifically, more than 100 health indicators were studied within Los Angeles neighborhoods. Such indicators include asthma, coronary disease and obesity. Some of the key findings in the Health Atlas include:

  • Geographic location is a very important indicator that a resident born and raised in Brentwood can expect to live 12 years longer than a resident who is born and raised in Watts.
  • Over 90% of adults in several Westside neighborhoods have a high school diploma, compared to less than 50% in neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights, South Los Angeles, and ArletaPacoima.
  • Over 30% of children in South Los Angeles, Southeast Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, and in neighborhoods near the Port of Los Angeles (i.e. Harbor City, San Pedro, and Wilmington) are obese, compared to less than 12% of children in Bel Air-Beverly Crest and Brentwood-Pacific Palisades.
  • Residents in Westlake and Southeast Los Angeles have less than half an acre of park space available per 1,000 residents.

In response to the Health Atlas, in March of 2015, Los Angeles lawmakers adopted the Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles (The Plan). The approval from Council marks the end of a two year planning process that involved community advocates, government leaders, public health experts and thousands of Angelenos. This new element—known as the “Health and Wellness Element”—will be incorporated into the City of Los Angeles General Plan, which is a document that serves as a blueprint for the growth and development of a city and is often referred to as the city’s planning constitution.

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Banning Park and Recreation Center in Wilmington, Los Angeles, California

The new health plan is a joint effort between the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning and the California Endowment, with funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Plan seeks to elevate health as a priority in the city’s future sustainable growth and development. It includes a series of policies and programs that will help guide the city toward a healthier and sustainable future which are not currently addressed by the General Plan. These include:

  • Increasing access to health-promoting goods and services, such as affordable and healthy food, by incentivizing economic development in underserved communities in the city.
  • Ensuring that Angelenos have equitable access to parks and open space.
  • Encouraging innovative solutions to improve food access, including the promotion of urban agriculture and increasing the number of healthy food vendors.

However, it should be noted that no additional money has been allocated to achieve the goals established in The Plan. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the various goals included in The Plan will be financed.

Is your community considered to be burdened with adverse health-related conditions? How are local city officials addressing such conditions? 

Credits: Images by Marisol Maciel-Cervantes.  Data linked to sources.

*This blog was originally posted in May 2015. H/T The Global Grid