California launches ‘Don’t Let Them Deceive You’ campaign directed at Latinos against pollution

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Los Angeles, Jan 25 (EFE).- A coalition of environmental organizations and residents of polluted areas in California launched the ‘Don’t Let Them Deceive You’ campaign on Thursday aimed at the Latino community to warn about the responsibility of large non-renewable energy companies in global warming.

“It is necessary to become aware of the damage caused by pollution from oil companies and the excessive use of gasoline,” said Guatemalan Sandra López to EFE, her voice choked by asthma she suffers from. The immigrant has lived for 25 years in Lincoln Heights, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, located near Highway 5, which runs along the West Coast of the United States from south to north.

“We can’t handle so much pollution anymore; you can feel it in the air. Everything is covered in black or brown. Even the plants have become sick like me,” declared the 56-year-old domestic worker. López attributes the asthma she was diagnosed with a few years ago to pollution. She claims that there are no respiratory problems in her family history and that her illness has worsened due to the air she breathes. She says she has to live with closed windows and use an air purifier inside the house. But sometimes, she still can’t breathe easily. She complains that in her neighborhood, densely populated mainly by residents of Latino and Asian roots, parks and trees have been disappearing.

“We have to stop complaining and take action. The first thing is to educate ourselves and stop thinking that big companies are not responsible for all of this,” she argued. Lincoln Heights has been in the spotlight of environmentalists for 40 years when dozens of rusted 55-gallon barrels filled with toxic chemicals were found buried. Until two years ago, there were still concerns about the waste that could have remained in the soil.

Martha Argüello, founder of La Mesa, the coalition promoting the ‘Don’t Let Them Deceive You’ campaign, told EFE that eight out of ten Latino children under the age of 10 live in the most polluted areas and “have a much higher risk of developing asthma and type 2 diabetes than their white counterparts.” The activist, who is the director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, partly blames large non-renewable energy companies for these health problems, which have not “done anything” to prevent pollution and also “deceive” communities with false messages. She recalls that large companies have opposed laws that have been passed in California for years to prevent oil wells from being located near schools and hospitals.

Among the actions that campaign participants will take are educating the community and pressuring local, state, and national lawmakers to pass measures to help counter pollution. In the city of Los Angeles alone, there are more than 5,000 oil and gas wells, active and inactive. But pollution problems are not only present in the southern part of the state.

Rey León, director of the Latino Equity Advocacy & Policy Institute (LEAP), told EFE that farmers and the Latino community in California’s Central Valley are being victims of pollution. “That region is a pressure cooker about to explode,” he warned. “People are dying from pollution in California, and many of the victims are Latinos,” the activist stated. He cited the problem facing the community in Richmond, in northern California, due to the Chevron refinery, which processes about 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day and has been operating since the beginning of the last century. “We have that source of pollution, but fuel prices are the highest in the country. That cannot be possible,” he pointed out. “That’s why it is necessary for us to raise our voices and for the entire community to join us. Together we can save our state, our lives,” he added.

The ‘Don’t Let Them Deceive You’ campaign seeks to end excavations and oil wells in neighborhoods, ensure that oil companies clean up places where they no longer operate and that the California Legislature adopts more measures to promote eco-friendly transportation. “Our children will inherit this state, and it is time for us to leave them a clean future,” Argüello concluded. EFE

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