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Letters to the Editor: Diesel pollution is killing port area residents. Why isn’t this an emergency?

Cargo containers sit on rail lines as more containers wait to be loaded onto ships and trains at the Port of Los Angeles.
Cargo containers sit on rail lines as more containers wait to be loaded onto ships and trains at the Port of Los Angeles in 2020.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Pollution from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is not just choking Southern California; it is killing the residents of the fence-line communities around the ports. We are in a public health emergency, but no one is responding to it as such.

A study from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health on the link between air pollution and COVID-19 deaths is being published in the August 2021 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environment International. A key finding is that Los Angeles County neighborhoods with the worst air quality saw a 60% increase in COVID-19 fatalities, compared with communities with the best air quality.

When people are dying, alarms should be ringing. But the alarm is silent today as it has been for more than 40 years, and I anticipate tomorrow the alarm will continue to be silent. As a resident of the area, I am beginning to believe no one has properly diagnosed the problem.

Leaders at all levels of government are failing the residents of port communities. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the South Coast Air Quality Management District really need to step up with proposals to immediately relieve the pain and suffering of people in these communities.

Theral Golden, Long Beach

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To the editor: In 2000, The Times reported that the state of California was warning that high levels of diesel exhaust can cause cancer. Residents of San Pedro, confronting the massive diesel emissions of the ports, immediately began to petition for emissions controls.

The result? Silence.

Shortly thereafter, the South Coast Air Quality Management District published a map showing the results of their modeling of air pollution cancer risk in its jurisdiction. The concentration around the two ports was absolutely terrifying. A local physician dubbed the area a “diesel death zone.”

Despite successful lawsuits from the community, the ports continue to resolutely slow-walk diesel exhaust cleanup. Clearly, pursuit of the almighty dollar trumps the public’s health. What a disgrace.

Noel Park, Rancho Palos Verdes


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