At CPEHN, we recognize that environmental conditions have a tremendous impact on our health. In our report, The Landscape of Opportunity: Cultivating Health Equity in California, we discussed how those living in areas with worse air quality are more likely to suffer from asthma and other chronic health conditions. We also showed that in California, the majority of people living in areas with adverse environmental conditions are from communities of color.
However, according to an article published this week by California Healthline, the study used an older version of a state environmental health tool (CalEnviroScreen). As a result, the inequities could actually be even starker than the report indicated. In the article, CPEHN Executive Director Sarah de Guia discussed the differences between CalEnviroScreen 1.1 and the 2.0 version and how the new version should yield more detailed results:
A new issue of our Health Equity Forum newsletter was released today and it starts off July with a lot of great articles and resources highlighting efforts to improve health and equity in California.
CPEHN’s Executive Director, Sarah de Guia, opens the newsletter with an article about the emotional last few weeks for social justice advocates. She celebrates last week’s Supreme Court decisions regarding the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage. However, she also takes time to remember the lives lost in the tragic hate crime in Charleston.
Our Ethnic Partner Spotlight features an article from Xavier Morales, Executive Director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. He focuses on the importance of addressing the diabetes health crisis in communities of color and what policy steps can be taken.
The American Lung Association in California has an interesting piece on their terrific new report, State of the Air 2015. The report looks at how California’s cities rank nationally in terms of air quality and what trends have become evident over the last decade. And the RYSE Center in Richmond has a compelling story on the challenges facing those returning from the juvenile justice system.
Ground-level ozone, which is formed from car and power plant emissions and is a primary component of smog, poses considerable health risks for all, but especially for children. At the start of the new century, in 2001, the six California counties with the most high-ozone days were all located in the Central Valley and in Southern California. More than a decade later, while the total number of such days is down by 64% across California, the same six counties continue to suffer from the worst air quality (by that measure) in the Golden State, according to the most recent data available on kidsdata.org (see map at right).
In 2013, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, and Tulare counties experienced more than 40 days with ozone levels above the U.S. regulatory standard. San Bernardino County, however, had 93 high ozone days, nearly eight times the statewide average of 12 days per year.
The American Lung Association State of the Air 2015 report, released last week, showed that while progress has been made, California continues to have some of the worst air pollution in the country. In fact, 28 million Californians live in counties where ozone or particle pollution levels can make the air unhealthy to breathe. (Click on the map to enlarge.)
Covering air pollution data from 2011-2013, State of the Air 2015 shows that California cities still dominate lists for the most polluted areas in the nation for ozone (smog) as well as short-term and annual particle pollution (soot). Several cities had both higher year round averages and unhealthy days on average of particle pollution driven largely by drought weather conditions.
Specifically, of the top ten cities in the nation with the worst air pollution, California metropolitan areas rank as follows:
Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown ensured that California would remain at the forefront of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in response to the growing threat of climate change. In an executive order, Brown stated that the state must cut greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. This interim target will help meet the goal of cutting emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, as established by Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“In North America, California is now setting the pace, and we're very serious about it,” Brown told a crowd of hundreds at a climate change conference in Los Angeles. “We're going to take whatever steps are needed to get the job done, because our future depends on it.”
“Studies have shown that communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to live in areas with high exposure to pollutants, which can lead to higher levels of asthma and other respiratory conditions as well as cardiovascular events, low birth weight, and premature deaths.”
In the same report we discussed improving air quality as a vital strategy to address some of the key environmental determinants of health. We stressed that California should remain a leader in developing standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
California has big goals to fight climate change. But the current trend is that more Californians are driving longer distances. That’s bad for the climate and for all of us. The state has got to invest in more and better alternatives to driving, modernizing our transportation system to reflect our societal and economic goals.
Next stop: Caltrans
Caltrans — whose name many people associate only with highways — is starting to recognize the need for change. The agency is on the road to recovery, but it needs your help to get there.
Caltrans updated its mission and its goals. Now, Caltrans has released a draft of the California Transportation Plan 2040, a plan to meet the state’s future mobility needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A good start; your input needed
The agency has asked for public input, and is holding public workshops around the state (see list below). Our initial recommendations are below.
The new draft plan does improve on the 2007 plan, incorporating state policies to reduce climate change and create more sustainable communities (AB 32, SB 375, SB 391, and Executive Orders on climate change). The draft plan also declares the intention to “avoid funding projects that add road capacity and increased maintenance costs.” This focus on sustainability, climate, and economy is an encouraging start.
Welcome to Friday Facts! Each week we'll be taking a look at a specific chart from the Data & Resources section of our website. This week we're focusing on the number of unhealthy air quality days each year as a result of ozone pollution in Riverside County.
While we have focused a great deal on health outcomes and socioeconomic factors contributing to health disparities in California, another root cause is our environment. It is much harder to live a healthy life when the air you breathe can cause you harm. For today’s Friday Facts, we’re looking at a particular form of pollution, ozone, in Riverside County.
As you can see from the table on our Data and Resources section, everyone living in Riverside County experiences roughly six weeks of unhealthy air quality days due to ozone pollution each summer. While there are some disparities (for example, African Americans average about a week’s worth of unhealthy days more than Whites), it is clear that this is an issue impacting all communities in the county. But what does “unhealthy air quality days” mean? Well, in this instance it is the number of days between May and October that have a level of ozone in the air that is higher than what is considered safe by federal standards.
Every year, dirty air kills over 9,000 Californians. Shockingly, more of us die from traffic-related pollution than from traffic-related accidents. Smog increases rates of asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and the five most polluted cities in America are all in California.
Fortunately, something amazing is happening in California. We’re charging polluters for the damage they cause and using that money to clean the air, save families money, and bring investments and jobs to communities that need them. But too few Californians know this is happening, or the good it’s doing for our neighborhoods. UpLiftCA will change that.
UpliftCA is a comprehensive campaign, with websites in both English and Spanish, which tells the story of how California’s climate policies are helping low-income communities and communities of color: cleaning the air, creating jobs and saving consumers money. The sites feature real-world stories, resources for both consumers and businesses, and more information about the laws. We invite you to visit UpLiftCA and share it with everyone you know. Come learn how California’s climate and clean energy laws and our fight against global warming are helping to build healthy, thriving neighborhoods.