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Heart-Wrenching Stories Of Illness In San Bernardino, Riverside

S usana Negrete, a mother of four in San Bernardino, calls the youngsters in her community “the innocents,” and she and other parents fear they are being exposed to toxins daily.

Susana’s 9yearold son suffers frequent, unexplained nose bleeds. Their home is 300 yards from a rail yard.

Another resident of California’s Inland Valley described his shock when a doctor examining his teenage daughter asked how many cigarettes she smoked. When the father and daughter informed him that she had never smoked, the doctor explained his question arose because the young girl had lung cancer. She died at age 16, and the grieving father blames polluted air for her cancer.

The poignant stories of illness and even death came during a DTSC EJ Enforcement Initiative bus tour in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties on Aug. 27, 2009. Penny Newman, executive director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), and her staff designed the tour route, selected sites and enlisted residents to speak firsthand about what’s happening to their environment and health.

The day after the tour, everyone returned for an allday workshop. By the time it was over, CCAEJ and DTSC were cochairs of an ongoing Inland Valley EJ Task Force that

Includes residents as well as many government agencies. The task force met again in October, and a prioritized list of sites — seven in San Bernardino and three in Riverside where residents believe environmental harms exist — had been assigned to specific task force members for further investigation.

Among the task force participants are the California Air Resources Board, San Bernardino fire department/CUPA, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, California Attorney General’s Office, U.S. EPA, South Coast Air Quality Management District and the DELTA Group at the University of California at Davis.

The Inland Valley is changing swiftly. Long an agricultural area, San Bernardino and Riverside now are becoming a goods management and movement “hub” that’s inland from the crowded Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. Already, huge warehouses have sprung up, and diesel semitrailers making or taking deliveries have followed. Major railroad operations spew emissions, too. As of 1997, area residents suffered with the fourthworst particle pollution in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

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