The dirty truth about dirty diesel

Soccoro Diaz is a single mom with seven kids. Just a few years ago her family was homeless and staying at a hotel. Now they live in a small, two-story, low-income apartment at the Jordan Downs Housing Projects in Watts in South Central LA. Three of her children suffer from acute asthma. Why are her kids — and a lot of other kids across LA County — sick? It’s probably the air.

A recent “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association gives LA County’s air quality a big fat ‘F.’  Smog, the brown stuff also known as ozone pollution, is still a problem – though it’s a lot better than it used to be. But there’s also particle pollution – sometimes called soot. And where does soot come from? According to the report, things that drive and fly cause 90 percent of the pollution in the region.  Diesel-fueled trucks, trains, and ships are a big part of that. That’s the soot. And there’s one place where all these vehicles come together – The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  The report calls the areas near the ports “hot spots.” 

Produced by Tena Rubio with photography by Blair Wells. 

 Listen to the radio version of the story:

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This was produced as part of the Independent Producer Project, KCRW’s initiative to cultivate and support the work of independent media producers and artists, and as a project for USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships.