The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to provide millions in federal funds to the San Joaquin Valley in California for the purpose of cleaning up the air and improving public health. The San Joaquin Valley is located in the central part of the state, extending from south of Sacramento to the Tehachapi Mountains in Los Angeles County and includes several inland cities like Stockton and Bakersfield. It is home to both agriculture and the petroleum industry, and over the years, has been plagued by rising levels of air pollution caused by diesel- and gasoline-fueled vehicles and agricultural activities.
Approximately $5 million of the funds will pay for cleaner trains throughout the San Joaquin Valley, including a train operating between the Port of Stockton and Lodi. Another $16 million will be provided to slash diesel emissions and improve air quality not just in the San Joaquin Valley, but also throughout the state of California. Residents of the San Joaquin Valley suffer from one of the nation's highest rates of asthma. Overall, it is estimated that 9,000 Californians die prematurely each year due to exposure to fine particle pollution like diesel exhaust. The federal government is working with state and local officials to develop new clean air technologies that could make a significant dent in the problem.
EPA officials believe that as a result of these grants, especially the $16 million one, 210 tons of particulate matter will be removed -- the equivalent of 1,000 trucks from the road -- as well as 4,500 tons of nitrogen oxides and 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
This is a promising development for any resident of the San Joaquin Valley in California. Hopefully the EPA is taking similar steps in other problem areas throughout the country. In the meantime, the health risks for people living in the San Joaquin Valley remain significant. Certain vehicle emissions have been linked to birth defects, such as carbon monoxide. A pregnant mother's repeated exposure to carbon monoxide may increase the risk that her baby could be born with brain damage, congenital heart defects, reduced birth weight, or that it could be stillborn.
If your child has a birth defect that you believe is due to air pollution in your area, you have some options for relief. One would be to file a lawsuit against the entity responsible for ensuring that proper air quality standards are met, such as the EPA or a similar state agency. That option would be best if the cause of pollution is so diffuse (such as thousands of cars traveling the freeway each morning) you cannot sue an individual offender. However, if you can identify the source of the pollution, such as a factory or a power plant, you could file a toxic tort lawsuit directly against the offender, claiming that the offender acted negligently in allowing harmful levels of toxins to pollute the air.