According a new study reduced by UC Davis says over 1,000,000 people in the Valley face serious health risks due to environmental and social factors.
There are over 4,000,000 people living in the valley, of that, more than a million people’s health is being compromised. The study says it’s due to bad air, lack of clean drinking water and exposure to pesticides and other chemicals.
The Valley is full of opportunity—filled with farmland and manufacturing plants; but with opportunity sometimes comes risk. The UC Davis study shows 1/3 of people living in the San Joaquin Valley face health problems because of their environment. It looked at areas exposed to unhealthy air, pesticides and contaminated water. West Fresno is just one city experiencing the problems. “We don't have a choice but to breathe air that's nasty and stinks,” says Fresno Activist Rev. Floyd Harris. Harris says the neighborhood has been battling the Darling Plant over health concerns for half a century. The study listed West Fresno as one area that bears a 'large burden of toxic and environmental stressors.' “The study shows it; we've been saying it,” says Harris.
The problems in Kettleman City were also listed in the study. Residents have complained for years says air and water contamination are causing cancer, birth defects and asthma in the city.
Merced is another area in a battle with a city plant. Residents are in the middle of a lawsuit with Merck, suggesting leaking materials contaminated the water and air.
Earlimart and areas of Tulare were also a part of the study; the residents stating the same concerns.
The study says almost all the areas have one thing in common; they're low-income where people have limited education and access to healthcare. “The truth is--its environmental racism for communities with the highest concentration of poverty,” says Harris.
The study hopes to spark change and give everyone the opportunity to live a healthier life. It shows health concerns are largely impacting minorities. Researchers say Latino’s has been hit the hardest. They add if the valley's environment is cleaned up it could save $6 billion a year.
Christina Lusby Reporting.