Our economy depends on trucks, trains and ships powered primarily by diesel fuel to move our food, household goods and other commodities in a constant flow throughout California. Unfortunately, freight commerce takes a toll on our health and environment when heavy-duty engines leave noxious fumes in their wake.
By Dr. James K. Brown
Oakland Tribune My Word © 2013 Bay Area News Group
August 6, 2013
One year ago Tuesday, a fire at Chevron’s Richmond oil refinery sent black smoke wafting across the East Bay.
Contra Costa Health Services asked residents to stay in their homes, close the windows, and wait it out. About 11,000 people sought medical treatment. Many suffered from eye, nasal and throat irritations that were short-lived. For those with pre-existing asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, their cough and shortness of breath increased dramatically, sometimes for extended periods.
This refinery fire was a dramatic demonstration that air pollution is bad for our health. A more compelling concern is the evidence that chronic, low-level exposure to air pollution has serious long-lasting adverse effects, including stunting of lung growth and increasing asthma among children, premature death in those with chronic lung diseases, and heart attacks.
Who knew that being a smoggy place might be good for business?
Now, some of what Brown is doing is, well, kind of squishy. As my colleague Anthony York reported:
On Wednesday, he held a private meeting with Environmental Protection Minister Zhou Shengxian. They signed a nonbinding agreement “to enhance cooperation on reducing air pollution,” the first such accord between China’s government and a U.S. state and one of several Brown is scheduled to secure while here.
Under the pact, California will help China set up institutions to regulate air quality, similar to those the state has established, and the two nations will engage in research projects “of mutual interest.”