Fighting for Life Honoree Andrea Hricko #ThrowBackThursday
My first foray into monitoring diesel exhaust was in 1972 – there I am (in the left photo) at the back of a garbage truck, at the request of the sanitation workers union in Washington, D.C., during the time when I worked on occupational health issues with the Health Research Group, one of Ralph Nader’s organizations. The workers’ concern was carbon monoxide. Fast forward 30 years – and there I am with Angelo Logan of EYCEJ monitoring diesel exhaust (this time for harmful ultrafine particles) from big rig trucks in Commerce.
Does that mean we’ve made no progress? No… now both garbage trucks and big rigs have smokestacks above the cabs, not in areas where workers directly breathe the exhaust. And many of the harmful constituents in diesel exhaust have been reduced over the years through stricter government regulations.
But those of us still working to ensure that diesel exhaust does not continue to suffocate low-income communities of color, and that big rig diesel trucks and locomotives are not the dominant feature of the community landscape … know that we still have a long way to go to protect these communities from harm.
I’m so pleased to be one of East Yard Communities’ honorees next week at its Fighting for Life Celebration. For the past 10 years, the environmental health outreach program I direct, which is based at USC, has partnered with EYCEJ and other environmental justice groups and asthma coalitions, along with academic allies from Occidental College. We call our group “THE Impact Project” – for Trade, Health and Environment impacts. It is a community-academic partnership focused on reducing the impacts of international trade on health and community life. Partners in THE Impact Project have been instrumental in forming a nationwide organization of groups called The Moving Forward Network (link to http://www.movingforwardnetwork.com/2013/10/about-moving-forward-network.html) which aims to transform the way ports and other goods movement facilities operate, in order to protect communities and health. You’ll be hearing the word ZERO mentioned a lot in the near future from the Moving Forward Network: zero emissions … zero pollution … zero health effects.
EYCEJ has gone from a small group of activists in 2002 to become a leader in the EJ movement in Southern California, the state and nationally in 2015. I have been lucky to be able to work with the great community organizers and advocates at EYCEJ during this period, bringing them news of the latest research findings on diesel and other air pollutants, while they inform our team of scientists at USC and UCLA about community concerns. Together, we have informed policymakers about the latest science and EJ groups have advocated for reducing pollution … building to a momentum for successful policy change.
*For more information on our 2nd Annual Fighting for Life Celebration coming up on June 6, click here.