Diesel fumes from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach -- the busiest U.S. seaport complex -- raise the risk of cancer for people living up to 15 miles inland, a new air quality study says.
The report by the California Air Resources Board said 50,000 people living closest to the two ports face a higher-than-average risk of developing cancer from port pollution alone.
But even residents living within 15 miles of the complex face a slightly higher risk than Californians as a whole, it said.
Other studies have shown that one in four Californians will get some form of cancer from all causes, including diet, lifestyle and environmental causes, which amounts to a risk of 250,000 in 1 million.
“We are saying that on top of that, 100 are going to have cancer for no other reason than the diesel pollution from the ports,” Jerry Martin, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, said Wednesday.
Martin said experts had long suspected that ships and cargo handling equipment such as cranes and forklifts were two of the biggest sources of diesel emissions from the ports.
As the primary U.S. trading gateway with Asia, Los Angeles and Long Beach handle more than $200 billion of cargo each year, a level of trade that often leaves ships and trucks idling.
“We are entering a phase where we are looking at regulating a lot of this type of equipment and these sources of emissions.
“This study was designed to help us get more certainty, so that we start regulating we get the most polluting sources first,” Martin said.
Air and noise pollution from the two ports have long been a major concern among residents, and efforts are underway between port authorities, air quality regulators and labor unions to reduce exposure to diesel emissions.
These include proposals due to be discussed in December to regulate the sort of fuels that ships use in harbor, which Martin said would have an immediate immediate impact on pollution levels.