Emission Control for Environmental Justice

Editors Note: Click to view Makello’s commitment to finding words and methods to accurately represent data while conveying inclusion of the appropriate demographic.

Makello began using maps to analyze data and learn about our community in 2019. From time to time, we intend to share some of the maps we’ve developed but there are challenges to presenting the data accurately and transparently, especially with regards to designations for Race, Identity and Ethnicity.

The US Census counts all people living within the Boundaries of the United States and Territories. The data collected is by Race, not citizenship status. The Census data uses terminology that can easily be misunderstood because of common usage of terms vs. the Census Bureau definition. The Census Bureau meaning of the term is often lost as the data filters down to the public through agencies and businesses.

The Census Bureau uses the terms African American, Asian American, Native American, Hispanic, White and Other to define Race. Citizenship or immigration status is not counted. The loss of context of these words may prevent accurate and full understanding of data. People may feel invisible or may be unintentionally misled.

You may have noted a few potential difficulties in the short list of the terms presented. That is where the struggle lies when attempting to represent residents without being US-Centric or Ethno-centric. Acceptable terminology changes through time, is understood differently in separate regions and countries, by different cultures and ethnicities. Individuals infuse meaning in words based on their life experiences, making classifications difficult.

Maps may focus on a specific demographic for any number of reasons including it can be difficult to adequately portray diversity on the map with charts or graphs. Please refer to the two examples below.

Makello is committed to the difficult task of finding words and methods to accurately represent data while conveying inclusion of the appropriate demographic. We make great effort to research and vet language. Language and identities change. Unfortunately, there is no all encompassing, perfect language for describing people. What one person thinks is a great label and strongly identifies with, the next person may reject or find offensive. We accept open and honest feedback and hope you enjoy the information we present.

Afircan Americans mostly in southwest San Diego.
African Americans in San Diego are concentrated in southwestern San Diego County. Click to enlarge.

The California fires air quality issues in 2020 are severe in large areas for PM2.5 and hazardous chemicals with winds carrying the smoke plume coast to coast and across international borders. Scenes from many cities show smoke so severe the city looks like a sci-fi movie. The fires are historic in scale but this pollution will stop in most areas when the wildfires are contained. For many though, the pollution will be ongoing because of man made factors such as traffic and vehicle emissions, air traffic or industry.

Normally, traffic in San Diego is notoriously bad with thousands stuck in traffic  five days a week. Engines idling, burning fuel, emitting pollution. Pollution is temporarily down due to the State of California’s pandemic Stay-At-Home order. But will it last? Have you ever wondered what impact your vehicle emissions have on the communities you pass through on your daily commute and who the emissions impact? Let’s take a look.

idling car leads to air poluttion poor health
Particulate matter can be harmful for many respiratory processes. The problems are exacerbated for children when their school lies in a high pollution zone because of idling. Click to enlarge.

Using the particulate matter (PM2.5) data from CalEnviroscreen 3.0, the map above shows the area with high concentrations of particulate matter (PM2.5) outlined in grey and Census Tracts with higher density of  African Americans. A 500 ft. buffer symbolized in green for the sections of the freeways where bottlenecks continually occur. The 500 foot buffer indicates the zone where the particulate matter from exhaust, diesel and passenger vehicles, is the highest. The red shapes are the portions of school parcels that are within 500 feet of the freeway and within the zone where the particulate matter coming from the freeway is the highest. Why is this important?

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Cars along with trucks, and SUVs emit 42% of the pollutants that contribute to ozone (smog).  Big rigs and passenger vehicles with diesel engines contribute diesel particulate matter. Particulate matter (PM2.5) is a mixture of aerosolized solid and liquid particles. Particulate Matter contains substances such as organic chemicals, dust, allergens and metals. The ability for the particles to trigger adverse health effects is directly related to particle size. The smaller the particle, the deeper the particle is able to penetrate into a person’s lungs. The finest particles have been shown to enter the bloodstream.

The most susceptible populations to  PM2.5 exposure are the elderly, children, persons who suffer from diseases such as cardiopulmonary disease, asthma and chronic illnesses. CalEnviroScreen utilizes PM2.5 to evaluate particulate matter. 2.5 refers to the diameter of the particles measured in microns. California studies have shown high ambient levels of PM2.5 have adverse effects on lung development or increased hospitalizations for several childhood respiratory diseases.

Makello works with non profits and other agencies to create maps for Environmental Justice initiatives.

A study published through the National Institute of Health (NIH) indicated children in schools within 500 feet from a freeway receive daily exposure to high concentrations of PM2.5 which may have adverse health effects increasing absences from school due to illness. When you are idling your car near a school or a daycare facility, children are being exposed to many chemical pollutants in addition to particulate matter. Children breathe 50% more air per pound than adults making their developing lungs susceptible to damage. According to Cleanearth4kids.org, pollutants from 1 minute of engine idling is greater than smoking 3 packs of cigarettes. If you are idling near a school, you can be idle free and help protect young lungs.

Idling cars poor air quality respiratory isseus
Particulate matter can be harmful for many respiratory processes. The problems are exacerbated for children when their school lies in a high pollution zone because of idling. Click to enlarge.

Diesel particulate matter also has health impacts and the schools within the 500 foot buffer are adversely impacted by Diesel PM as well asPM2.5. In the map above, the areas outlined in white show the Census Tracts with the highest concentrations of Diesel PM impacting schools in communities with African American populations greater than 10% of the Census Tract total population.  

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Diesel exhaust contains known carcinogens benzene and formaldehyde. Diesel exhaust, as with PM2.5, the finer the particle, the greater the ability to penetrate deeply into the lungs. According to the US EPA, 50% or more of the Diesel PM are in the ultrafine range, increasing the potential for the particles to deposit in the lung.

Similar to PM2.5, children and those with existing respiratory diseases appear to be especially susceptible to the harmful effects of exposure to airborne diesel exhaust particulate matter. Persons with asthma are more likely to have increased symptoms and attacks along with decreases in lung function.

Greening your ride if you drive through this region regularly certainly can help reduce pollution and help protect the lungs of the children who live and go to school in these neighborhoods. There are many options for all electric vehicles as well as plug in hybrids, battery/energy storage, and solar. Makello can help you choose a vehicle, analyze your energy usage and help you decide the type of system is right for you. Contact us for your FREE Energy Analysis today. 

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2008 Eight-Hour Ozone Attainment Plan for San Diego County http://www.sdapcd.org/content/dam/sdc/apcd/PDF/Air%20Quality%20Planning/2016_AttainmentPlan_Draft.pdf 2






NIH https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16222162/

EPA https://www.epa.gov/criteria-air-pollutants

OEHHA https://oehha.ca.gov/calenviroscreen

Caltrans https://dot.ca.gov/

City of San Diego 2019 Climate Equity Report https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/2019_climate_equity_index_report.pdf

Health Resources & Services Administration https://www.hrsa.gov/

SanDAG https://www.sandag.org/index.aspsubclassid=100&fuseaction=home.subclasshome

California Open Data Portal https://data.ca.gov/

Census Bureau https://www2.census.gov/programssurveys/acs/methodology/design_and_methodology/acs_design_methodology_ch06_2014.pdf

US Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center https://afdc.energy.gov/stations/#/find/nearest

APA STyle Racial and Ethnic Guidelines


American Heritage Guide to Usage and Style- Person of Colour https://zourpri.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/the-american-heritage-guide-to-contemporary-usage-and-style-2005.pdf