Calif. Communities at High-Risk for Pollution-Related Health Issues
Many Southern California communities are among the highest-risk areas in the U.S. for health issues associated with pollution, according to an interactive online map released Wednesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now" reports (Barboza, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 6/10).
The California Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment previously released a similar tool that ranks areas of the state based on 19 indicators of how vulnerable they are to health problems that are caused or exacerbated by the environment.
The state tool -- known as the CalEnviroScreen map -- is being used to determine:
- How the state distributes community planning grants and funding for greenhouse gas reduction; and
- Which communities should be a priority for the enforcement of hazardous waste disposal (California Healthline, 4/29/14).
Details of EPA Map
Similar to CalEnviroScreen, the new EPA map combines the environmental information with demographic measures to identify low-income, minority populations that face health risks from:
- Air pollution;
- Hazardous waste sites;
- Lead paint;
- Traffic congestion; and
- Other pollutants.
Unlike the California tool, EPA said the new map would only be used to inform work by the agency, not to make decisions on enforcement, funding or permitting.
An analysis of more than 217,000 census groups nationwide found that several California communities -- particularly the Inland Empire, San Joaquin Valley and southeast Los Angeles County -- are at high-risk for health issues related to pollution, according to "L.A. Now."
Based on the findings, EPA has selected the Imperial Valley and Gilroy, in Santa Clara County, to be part of a two-year program that will target economically distressed communities that face environmental burdens.
Some observers criticized the new EPA map for leaving out some environmental health data, such as risk of cancer related to air pollution. EPA said it will add such information to the tool when more up-to-date data are available.
Meanwhile, environmental organizations have said they will use findings from the new EPA tool to push for projects to cut emissions and enforce stricter environmental policies in the highest-risk areas.
Cesar Campos, director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network, said, "You think of California as one of the richest states and yet, there are still communities that are suffering as if they were in the poorest states in the nation" ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 6/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.