Thursday, April 9, 2020

New city cores' health danger: Covid-19 in already polluted air

A few words, some links and one sound clip to put some various reports and about airborne illnesses into perspective.

To begin with, I hope the news about how Covid-19 is falling disproportionately and dangerously on Milwaukee's predominantly African-American central city - - a fact that is rooted in our state's legacy and government-assisted segregation - - isn't lost on weary news readers.

Stories like this.

COVID-19 Deaths Concentrated In Milwaukee's African American Community 
Evers Call Outbreak A 'Crisis Within A Crisis'
And the terrible numbers and trends here continue to be skewed heavily by race.
The new statistics show that, black Wisconsinites make up 26.9% of total confirmed cases in the state despite only accounting for 6.7% of the state’s population, according to a 2019 estimate from the Census Bureau. The numbers also show that African Americans account for 42.4% of COVID-19-related deaths in Wisconsin.
And I know it's hard to keep up with all the recent, relevant reporting, but take note of this must-read posting:
A likely but hidden coronavirus risk factor: Pollution
Echoed here:
A new nationwide study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that people living in neighborhoods with higher levels of fine particulate air pollution are more likely to die from COVID-19 infection than patients from areas with cleaner air. 
That’s especially concerning for many of communities of color in Massachusetts, where the legacies of racist planning policies expose Asian, Latinx and black neighborhoods to higher levels of tailpipe pollution from highways and other major roads. 
The Harvard study compares the nation’s county-level COVID-19 deaths (as of April 4) with each county’s corresponding long-term average concentrations of pollution particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, also known as PM2.5 or “fine particulate” pollution.
Which brings us back to SE Wisconsin, and, regrettably, but predictably, to the long-standing concerns of impacted communities given short shrift by more powerful government bodies and the special-interests which since the 1950;s have herded people of color into Milwaukee's central city and pushed highway expansion in the area while nickel-and-diming transit alternatives which would keep the air less polluted, as discussed on this blog in 2012, and elsewhere: 
...the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin (BHCW) and Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) filed suit in federal court in Madison, seeking to block the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s efforts to spend $1.7 billion to rebuild and expand the Zoo Interchange at the same time transit is being slashed. The lawsuit challenges the decisions of WisDOT and federal transportation officials to approve the project without including any transit component... 
"The Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin follows World Health Organization policies and principles holding that you cannot have healthy people in a sick community,” added BHCW President/CEO, Dr. Patricia McManus. “Allowing multibillion-dollar highway projects to move forward while transit moves backwards reduces the opportunities to access health care, education, and other needs, as well as employment. And expanding highways while cutting transit also hurts our air quality, which is already much worse this year than it was last year.”
BHCW and MICAH are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation and by Midwest Environmental Advocates, both non-profit organizations that support environmental justice.
Here's an earlier blog segment from 2009
So here we are again near the top of a list you'd rather be absent from all together: Asthma rates.
We're Number Two nationally, a study says.
Bad enough that people are literally choking on the air we breathe here, but put that into a policy context: The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission cooked up a $6.5 billion rebuilding and expansion of freeway lanes, including miles and miles of new lanes right through the City of Milwaukee.
Beneath the Marquette Interchange in 2019 - - an $800 million small piece of 'freeway' expansion work which has moved north, south, and west of Milwaukee past low-income city neighborhoods/
That's right: inducing more traffic into and through the city. 
Over the objections of both the Milwaukee Common Council and the Milwaukee County Board.
Tailpipe emissions are a leading contributor to air pollution - - in fact, the state Department of Natural Resources issued a statewide air quality alert for today and tomorrow...
From the current alert (and take note of the references to asthma):
"The Air Quality Index is forecast to reach the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. When an air quality watch is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities during the watch period.
"People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure."
Worse, the state and the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency last year seeking looser air quality standards for much of SE Wisconsin....
Our public and private sector leaders have to understand that dirty air harms everyone - - rich and poor (though central city residents live closer in larger numbers to the freeways; when you drive on I-43 from the Marquette Interchange to Glendale you are driving through what used to be intact, predominantly African-American neighborhoods) - - and that people will opt to leave the area or refuse to relocate here if they know the air will make them sick.
As I said, these are known problems with highway-happy Milwaukee in the findings:
Air Pollution Linked to 4M New Cases of Pediatric Asthma a Year 
A new study found that traffic-related pollution leads to millions of new pediatric asthma cases around the world per year....
The five cities in the United States with the highest percentage of pediatric asthma cases attributed to pollution include Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas and Milwaukee. 
And on top of all these known health factors, and the fresh association of air pollution to the damage that Covid-19 is doing right here in Milwaukee, don't forget this latest live-and-death decision by Trump and the EPA he's destroying which is only going to lead to more lung disease and death here: 
President Trump's proposed drastic relaxation of future auto emissions standards has been widely blasted as a repeal of "the government's biggest effort to combat climate change." Careful readers have also noted that the Trump proposal would kill 300 Americans every year and cost every driver about $2,100 in higher costs by wasting about 80 billion gallons of gasoline.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I and many others bought a hybrid was to cut down on fuel consumption and pollution. What did we get for that? A 75.00 a year increase for our tags. Where is that money going? Earmark it to solve some of these problems.