State pollution map shows stark environmental health inequities in Long Beach

Newly released data from the state’s environmental protection agency shows which communities statewide face the highest levels of pollution. In Long Beach, the data shows that neighborhoods in North, West and Central Long Beach are under heavier levels of pollution compared to other areas of town. The findings further highlight the longstanding environmental health inequities found within these impacted communities.

The state’s CalEnviroScreen mapping tool ranks census tracts from zero to 100 to show what levels of pollution neighborhoods face. The greater numbers mean higher levels of pollution.

Census tracts located in North Long Beach, particularly along the 91 Freeway, scored 99 points, suggesting the community is categorized as living under unsafe levels of pollution. Similarly, census tracts in West Long Beach near the 405 and 710 Freeways scored 87 points, while areas in East Long Beach showed lower scores, such as 37 and 38.

Chronic health issues have been more prevalent in North, West and Central Long Beach neighborhoods where there are more communities of color. According to a community health assessment from 2019, these neighborhoods have higher levels of asthma, diabetes and heart disease. The greater levels of pollution in these communities only exacerbates chronic illnesses among vulnerable groups.

Environmental justice agencies throughout the state have used this sort of mapping tool to help dictate policy-making in the past. Phoebe Seaton, co-director with Leadership Counsel, an advocacy group in rural California, said her group has used information in the mapping tool before to pressure community leaders to develop for healthier communities.

“CalEnviroScreen illustrates what so many community residents have known all along,” Seaton said, “that the same neighborhoods plagued with air pollution contend with water contamination and other challenges that need the attention of elected officials and public agencies.”

The state is collecting public comments and hosting virtual webinars to inform Californians about the mapping tool. Long Beach residents can leave a public comment on the state’s website. The window to comment is open until April. The state will finalize the mapping tool with up-to-date information later this summer.

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