By Mayibel Ruiz
California’s air quality is ranked the lowest in the country because of the lack of policies protecting its residents from air pollutants, exposing residents to detrimental health risks. The air pollution in cities such as Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino is consistently ranked the lowest in the country because of warehouses and frequent trucking traffic.
A reason air pollution is a problem in these cities is the lack of local government support for these cities’ residents. The city’s local government officials do not take sufficient action to create restrictions on warehouses in the area that can improve air quality over time.
When comparing states, such as California, ranked with lousy air quality versus states, such as Hawaii, that have good air quality, you see population also plays an essential factor. Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino residents are exposed to daily air pollution due to poor urban development and negligence in protecting their citizens from pollutants.
A significant contributor to the cause of worsening air pollution in Riverside and San Bernardino is the large number of warehouses found in both cities. Warehouses pollute the inland empire cities they reside in by increasing truck traffic in those cities. The increase in truck traffic leads to diesel pollutants in the air, posing a health risk to its residents and causing everything from lung-related health complications to heart health problems.
You can see an example of how harmful the air pollutants are rampant in the city of Riverside by simply going over to the city’s public works website. Micron air pollutants are described as air pollutants causing health complications in its residents. The health risks are “respiratory system irritation, reduced lung function, aggravating asthma, the inflamed or damaged lung lining.” The webpage even offers its residents extra resources about air pollution, such as websites and health reports. However, residents know how bad the air quality is because most of us have experienced respiratory-related health issues since childhood due to many of our schools being right next to freeways and busy intersections.
Providing residents with information about the health risks air pollution causes is not helpful information to the residents of these communities. The majority of these cities’ demographics are underrepresented individuals who need more help advocating for better air quality from their local government. For example, Riverside and San Bernardino residents suffer the health consequences of surrounding warehouses in their neighborhoods. Still, they are often not advocated for by their city board members. Often residents understand that action needs to be taken regarding air quality. Still, because these residents are not educated on the steps they need to take to protect their communities, no steps are taken to improve air quality.
For example, since 2021, cities across the Inland Empire have voted into action Warehouse, Moretorium’s, to establish restrictions for future warehouse buildings in their cities. In 2021 the City of San Bernardino was one of the few cities that voted against setting the 45-day warehouse moratorium in their city due to two board members failing to vote in favor of the restrictions. At the same time, cities such as Chino and Redlands have happily voted into effect the 45-day moratorium to improve air quality in their cities.
So why is Southern California missing the memo on air pollution? After years of receiving failing scores for air quality, city officials would advocate for better policies to protect their residents from air pollution caused by business and traffic. Well, one factor that also contributes to air pollution is population size. In states such as Hawaii, with the cleanest air quality, a factor that keeps the air so pure in that state, aside from a lack of heavy industry, is their low population. The number of residents residing in a state affects air quality traffic flow. Could this be why California is pushing for making electric cars mandatory and banning diesel cars? When the population in a state reaches large numbers, the number of people on the road affects air quality.
“I have lived in Riverside my entire life, and I remember developing asthma in fourth grade; it was scary,” said April Chavez, a Riverside city resident. “I remember I grew up surrounded by freeways. My elementary school was close to a busy freeway, and so was my high school. Now that I have kids, air pollution is definitely something I worry about, and I try to do what I can to bring awareness to the issue”.
Chavez’s story is not uncommon for the typical Riverside resident because air pollution in the cities of San Bernardino and Riverside poses a severe health risk to its residents. Warehouses and their subsequent trucking traffic associated with these warehouses are significant contributors to the air pollution problem in those cities. The local government’s lack of advocacy for its residents also threatens residents’ ability to create any real improvements to their city’s air quality. While both Riverside and San Bernardino’s proximity to freeways and the ambient pollutants freeways cause develop health issues in children’s lung development and airway health. Air pollution is a significant factor in the overall health of residents in both Riverside and San Bernardino, and the long-term effects of air pollution can be life-altering.