Giving Compass’ Take:
• Ana B. Ibarra describes how wildfires exacerbate health challenges for low-income Californians who already suffer the ill effects of air pollution.
• How can funders help to dismantle systems that push environmental ills onto the poor disproportionately?
Viviana Aguirre, 14, knows the air is bad when she has to reach for her inhaler once, maybe twice a week.
But this summer, the high school freshman has relied on her inhaler almost every day to keep her asthma under control.
The air in her low-income neighborhood has been thick with smoke for weeks, she said, forcing her to remain indoors most of the time. It’s hard for Viviana to tell whether the smoke is coming from the usual controlled burns in the farmers’ fields surrounding her home — or from the record-breaking wildfires blazing to the north and south of her, she said.
People like Viviana and her family are hit disproportionately when wildfires ignite — because smoke adds another layer of toxic substances to the already dirty air, experts say.
About 26 percent of school-aged children in the San Joaquin Valley have asthma — the highest rate in the state, according to California Health Interview Survey.
Cities in the San Joaquin Valley, the state’s agricultural heartland, top the list of those with the worst air pollution in the country. The valley is also home to some of the state’s poorest communities: Seven of the 10 California counties with the highest child poverty rates are there, according to a 2017 report by the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund.
Read the full article about wildfire health challenges by Ana B. Ibarra at Governing Magazine.
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