ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: Southern California’s Air To Be Monitored For Cancer Risk
The South Coast Air Quality Management District yesterday "launched a major venture to determine the cancer risk Southern Californians face" -- especially low-income and minority residents -- "from breathing polluted air." The Los Angeles Times reports that the AQMD commenced a study yesterday that will monitor the air quality in 14 suspected "toxic hot spots" for 30 compounds that are linked to higher risks of "cancer, birth defects, respiratory disease and other serious health problems." The tests will help AQMD officials "calculate the cancer threat to people exposed and spread the word to residents about what hazard they face." Sports promoter and AQMD board chair William Burke, "spearheaded" the "new environmental justice initiative." Mel Zeldin, AQMD director of applied science and technology, said, "This (study) will provide a wealth of information to determine whether people who are economically disadvantaged are exposed to a greater risk than other people in the basin."
Current air quality standards in California permit an amount of toxic fumes that "can cause 100 cancer cases among every 1 million people exposed," an amount environmentalists have said is "too lax," and "a standard only one-tenth as strict" as AQMD staff recommended. The new tests "will allow the board to consider changing pollution limits to base them on the total health risks to a community." The Times reports that the AQMD has traditionally focused on reducing smog, consequently placing "a low priority on cancer-causing air pollutants." Carlos Porras, director of Communities for a Better Environment's Southern California division: "This is long overdue. It's already known that there are disproportionate impacts on poor, urban, minority communities, but this will generate more and better information about the nature of the risks in these localized hot-spot communities." The 14 monitoring sites will be located in the Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties (Cone, 6/10). To read more California Healthline coverage of the environmental health risks of exhaust in California, click here.