By Kevin Hall
Our kids are the canaries in Fresno’s coal-mine-like atmosphere of microscopic pieces of soot and gases.
The more deleterious impacts to their sensitive, developing systems play out over their shortened lifetimes. One in four suffer acute impacts from asthma, about which Fresno Mayor Lee Brand once asked if air pollution is so bad why don’t we all have asthma? He was voting in support of wrapping a commercial almond orchard around California Veterans Home at the time.
In addition to the long-established prevalence of cancer-causing toxics found in diesel exhaust, researchers have also found it is mutating kids’ genes in alarming ways.
In a long, insidious process, diesel’s toxics can alter the portion of the genetic code regulating T-cell production thereby weakening the immune system. This results in higher rates of asthma, diabetes and a growing list of physical ailments. This effect has been proven to occur right here in Fresno by some of the world’s top researchers from Stanford and UC Berkeley. These effects are still being researched here today. The Children’s Health and Air Pollution Study (CHAPS) actually has staff in Fresno because that’s where the victims are.
As the CHAPS web site explains:
The San Joaquin Valley, and Fresno in particular, are identified as areas that are highly subject to environmental hazards, health risks, concentrated poverty and social vulnerability (the combination of many social, economic, environmental and place factors that describe a person or community’s burden.)
Air pollution concentrations in the San Joaquin Valley are commonly above state and federal clean air standards. Many of the cities, such as Fresno, in the 8-county region are classified as the most polluted cities in the United States for both particulate matter and ozone pollution. The health costs of the region’s polluted air are many and include high levels of hospital admittance and emergency room visits linked to asthma complications, increased cardiovascular disease risks and even premature death.
And that groundbreaking news about Fresno children is now a decade old.
Kevin Hall is a former Fresno County Planning Commissioner and a long-time air quality advocate.