Fresno: California's Most Toxic City

Fresno: California's Most Toxic City

Hold your breath! If you live in L.A. County, the San Joaquin Valley or the Inland Empire, then your lungs probably don’t like you very much. And if you live in Fresno–better known to young community workers as the “93706 Zone”–then forget about it: it’s the most polluted city in California, deemed to have the worst air in the Golden State, the Los Angeles Times reports

According to estimates from the World Health Organization, air pollution is a leading environmental cause of deaths–not global warming, which is a far more abstract environmental issue.

The Times cites data from California’s Environmental Protection Agency detailing disturbing statistics on the city’s west side where pollution, water toxicity, dangerous ozone concentrations and poverty conspire to make it the worst-afflicted area. An interactive map allows users to check pollution’s impact where they live.

The goal of the interactive map is not only to alert and encourage policymakers to target vulnerable areas for environmental cleanup, but also to help refocus the state’s pollution battles.

A report by California’s Valley Public Radio notes that California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s CalEnviroScreen 2.0 database’s socioeconomic section ranks communities based on factors that researchers say make certain groups more vulnerable to pollution. Indicators in that section include the unemployment rate, educational attainment, linguistic isolation and poverty.

Populations that are especially sensitive to pollution are young children, expectant mothers and the elderly.

Photo: Gary Kazanjian/AP