and People of Color: Living with Industry
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people of Richmond [California] live within a ring of five major oil refineries, three
chemical companies, eight Superfund sites, dozens of other toxic waste sites,
highways, two rail yards, ports and marine terminals where tankers dock. The
city of 103,701 doesn't share the demographic of San Francisco, 25 miles to the
south, or even Contra Costa County, or the state as a whole.
North Richmond -- the tiny, unincorporated neighbor of Richmond -- Latinos,
blacks and Asians make up 97 percent of the 3,717 residents, compared with 82.9
percent in Richmond and 59.9 percent in California, according to 2010 U.S.
houses sell for below $100,000, among the lowest prices in the Bay Area, in the
zip code shared with the Chevron refinery, and residents complain of a lack of
paved streets, lighting and basic services. Short on jobs and long on poverty,
there's not a grocery store or cafe in sight. The median income in North
Richmond, $36,875 in 2010, is less than Richmond's modest $54,012 and less than
half of Contra Costa County’s $78,385.
residents seeking affordable homes end up sharing a fence line with a refinery
and a cluster of other polluting businesses. They may save money on shelter,
but they pay the price in health, researchers say.
of toxic emissions from industries -- as well as lung-penetrating diesel
particles spewed by truck routes and rail lines running next door to
neighborhoods -- may be taking a toll on residents’ health. The people of
Richmond, particularly African Americans, are at significantly higher risk of
dying from heart
disease and strokes and more likely to go to hospitals for asthma than
other county residents. Health experts say their environment likely is playing
a major role.
most coastal cities breathe ocean breezes mixed with traffic exhaust, people in
north and central Richmond are exposed to a greater array of contaminants, many
of them at higher concentrations. Included are benzene, mercury and other
hazardous air pollutants that have been linked to cancer,
reproductive problems and neurological effects. People can’t escape the fumes
indoors, either. One study showed that some of the industrial pollutants are
inside Richmond homes.
Submitted by Flisa
Stevenson, Chair of the NAAEE Diversity Committee