Where Pollution Goes Health Problems Follow

By Leticia Miranda Dec 11, 2009

This recent story in the Contra Costa Times, aptly titled "In East Bay, Where Pollution Goes, Health Problems Follow," couldn’t be any more relevant. As the Copenhagen Conference continues, two local Bay Area writers follow the story of 10 year-old John Fitzpatrick who struggles with severe asthma and lives in a part of West Oakland that touts the highest asthma hospitalization rate in the East Bay. From the article:

West Oakland youths breathe in diesel exhaust from trucks, trains and ships at the port, and the aging homes near the waterfront become magnets for mold, said [Mindy Benson, the asthma program manager at Children’s Hospital Oakland]. John and his mother lived in West Oakland during the first few years of his life. John is allergic to mold and mildew. It was a constant struggle to keep it out of the home. "No matter how you clean it, it still comes back," his mother said.

But it’s not just the mold and mildew that irritates John’s asthma and allergies, but the exhaust from the millions of trucks that travel Interstate 880 regularly. The 880 cuts through the lower parts of East and West Oakland where, you might guess, mostly low-income and poor people of color live. It’s not the smooth ride and green foliage that make truckers opt to drive the 880 rather than Interstate 580 (believe me the bumpy, uneven roads and industrial landscape make the 880 pretty unappealing), but a 40 year-old state policy that bars trucks weighing over 9.5 tons from driving on the 580, which travels through the upscale Oakland hills. This not only results in soot that builds up on Fitzpatrick’s windows everyday, but puts all West Oakland residents at a cancer risk that is three times higher than any other Bay Area dweller. While Obama and his US reps feel good for just attending the conference, the EPA is calling greenhouse gases a "public threat" and the Copenhagen conference is failing to put the US in check around its emission rates. Where other "developed" countries are now required to cut their emissions by 30% by 2020, the US is required to cut it’s emissions by only 15%. Read the rest of the Contra Costa Times story here.