Ports & Goods Movement

Southern California is a hub of international trade, with the largest port complex in the country—the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles--bringing in more than 40% of the nation’s imported products. Yet much of Southern California also continually fails to meet national air quality standards and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the biggest single source of air pollution in Southern California.

“Mobile sources” – trucks and trains carrying containers from the ports – add significant pollution to the entire region, with some communities at greater risk because of their being situated near freeways, rail lines or rail yards.

In the early 2000s, several factors converged to raise new awareness about the health impacts of international trade and goods movement in port communities. First, new scientific findings from UCLA and USC on the health effects of air pollution were published and disseminated to community groups and elected/appointed officials. Diesel also came to be of great health concern because of its connection to lung cancer, as a result of documentation in 1998 by the Air Resources Board (ARB) via the State’s Scientific Review Panel (chaired by STPP’s Dr. John Froines) and new UCLA studies on ultrafine particle toxicity. Recognizing that emissions from ports and goods movement were disproportionately impacting low income and predominantly minority communities, environmental organizations became engaged in issues related to goods movement impacts, and subsequently sued the ports for their faulty environmental reviews.

The confluence of such forces has contributed to the current movement to “grow the ports, but grow them ‘green.’” STPP is currently playing a key role in conducting research and contributing to the body of knowledge about existing impacts of air pollution in an attempt to find innovative solutions to phase out old, polluting technologies for goods movement.

In collaboration with the Center for Occupational & Environmental Health at UCLA, STPP is engaged in three goods movement-related projects. These project aims to characterize the hazards from goods movement sources and work to identify alternative technologies and/or methods of the movement of goods to minimize or eliminate impacts to local communities.

(1) Assessment of Local Environmental Risk Training (ALERT): ALERT aims to build the community capacity by strengthening community representatives’ ability to find, understand, and use environmental health data in their planning and advocacy work. In collaboration with the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, The Children's Clinic in Long Beach and The East LA Community Corporation in Boyle Heights, and is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

(2) The Academic-Community Collaborative In Our Neighborhood Project, or ACCION: Funded by The California Endowment, ACCION is focused on building community capacity around issues of air pollution, pedestrian safety, built environment, and walkability in the community of Boyle Heights. Through a partnership with two community based organizations, Proyecto Pastoral and Union de Vecinos, the project is actively engaged in translating the science of air pollution and built environment impacts for use in policy change.

(3) Rail yard Emission Study: Funded by the South Coast Air Quality Management District this project focuses on sampling at the four most polluting rail yards in the state of California, according to Health Risk Assessments conducted by the California Air Resources Board. The samples are being collected as a basis for determining toxicological impacts. This study is focused in the communities of Long Beach, Commerce, and San Bernardino/Riverside.

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