February 13th, 2012

Southern Californians at risk of death from air pollution

Southern Californians are among those at highest risk of death due to air pollution, according to recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency research published in the journal Risk Analysis.

The study, published last month, was conducted to “provide insight to the size and location of public health risks associated with recent levels of fine particles and ozone, allowing decision-makers to better target air quality policies,” the federal agency said in a statement responding to California Watch inquiries.

“While overall levels of fine particles and ozone have declined significantly in the past two decades, these two pollutants still pose a burden to public health,” the EPA statement said.

Read more.

December 7th, 2011
I don’t think the levels that are approved for use in wine in the EU and Australia will give that laxative effect.

Wendell Lee, general counsel for the Wine Institute, the trade group for California’s wine industry. Lee commented on the news that the Australian government has given the nod to winemakers to begin using a chemical contained in laxatives. 

While the chemical, sodium carboxymethyl cellulose, has long been prized by the medical world for its anti-bulking and laxative properties, food scientists have discovered that, in small doses, it can be used to stabilize and thicken beverages and foods.

December 5th, 2011

Maywood residents facing pollution outline community goals

California Watch’s Public Engagement Manager Ashley Alvarado visited Maywood, Calif., to listen and learn from community members.  Read her full report here.

The invite was a pleasant surprise. Janet Wilson’s excellent report on the severe health struggles of one Maywood family and the polluted conditions that envelop them had run recently, and I was doing research for “A Field Guide to Maywood Pollution Issues,” a downloadable directory of key players. I reached out to Héctor Alvarado (no relation), an activist with Padres Unidos de Maywood. And he invited to me to one of the weekly Comité Cívico del Agua meetings. 

That I was the guest of honor came as a complete shock. One night this week, I walked into the Unión de Vecinos office space on East Slauson Avenue a few minutes before 6:30. I was early, and yet 20 people sat in a circle, waiting for me. Handwritten posters outlined goals for the community; two bookshelves stood crammed with bottles of polluted water. Héctor introduced me, and then, one by one, Maywood residents stood to introduce themselves.

Over the next hour and a half, I listened as people shared their Maywood stories. Some, like Cristóforo Castro, have lived in Maywood for more than four decades. All have been affected by its polluted water. They pay for water three times, they said: at the meter (with prices that rise and that residents are unable to monitor), large decanters for everyday water use and the bottles they drink. That does not include what they pay for all the health issues: “There is illness all over Maywood,” Cristóforo said in Spanish.

Photo: Bottles hold water samples taken from Maywood residents’ faucets.

December 1st, 2011

HIV, AIDs rates rise sharply among blacks, Hispanics

The profile of HIV and AIDS patients in California has shifted significantly since the disease first made headlines 30 years ago, reflecting the success of drugs to extend patients’ lives and the failures to stem the spread of the disease in diverse communities.

A statewide analysis of health data [PDF] completed in recognition of World AIDS Day, celebrated today, reveals the changing face of patients in the state, including an increase in older patients and rising rates of infection among blacks and Hispanics.

The review by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development also shows that hospitalization rates among HIV and AIDS patients have plummeted since 1988, reflecting the power of antiretroviral drug cocktails to keep the condition in check.

Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a conference call with reporters yesterday that he was a family doctor in Redding in the 1990s when he saw young men return to their families to die.

“We’ve come a long way since then,” he said. “There have been miraculous advances in treatment, yet we’ve still got a ways to go.”

Photo: dra_schwartz/istockphoto.com

November 10th, 2011

Health officials recall lead-tainted candy

The California Department of Public Health initiated a recall Tuesday of an Indian candy that is tainted with high levels of lead.

The candy, sold under the brand name Roopal Swad, was analyzed by the Public Health Department and found to contain up to 0.18 parts per million of lead. In California, foods with more than 0.10 parts per million of lead are considered contaminated.

The company that imported the product, India Imports & Exports Inc., is voluntarily recalling the candy.

"The contamination was identified through routine surveillance sampling in the marketplace," said Pat Kennelly, chief of the food safety section of the California Department of Public Health.

Photo: Courtesy of California Department of Public Health

Read more.

November 7th, 2011


To begin exploring how air pollution may affect your community, use our snazzy interactive map of more than 17,000 facilities that have emitted hazardous chemicals into the air. Color-coded dots and scores of one to five smoke stacks are based on an EPA method of assessing potential health risk in airborne toxins from a given facility. More smoke stack icons signify higher potential risks to human health. Zoom in to your neighborhood by clicking on the map or use the search box to find the area you’re looking for.

Want to know more? Check out our series, “Poisoned Places.

Reblogged from NPR
November 3rd, 2011

Living in industry’s shadow: After years of illnesses, family looks for answers

The Martin family lives 10 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, in a neat yellow house in a city called Maywood.

Starting a few blocks from their home, nearly 2,000 factories churn out Southern California’s hot dogs, pesticides, patio furniture and other products. Trucks rumble off the I-710 freeway into sprawling freight rail yards. Odors of rotting animal carcasses waft through the family’s windows on hot summer nights.

The Martins also have endured years of illness.

The USC Annenberg Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism and California Watch commissioned tests to measure the family’s exposure levels to dangerous metals and industrial byproducts.

November 2nd, 2011

Doctors were coached on diagnoses, ex-staff say

Prime Healthcare Services has a reputation for buying financially troubled hospitals and turning them around, winning awards and reporting profits in the tens of millions. But a more troubling trend has emerged, according to an investigation by California Watch. Prime hospitals report that the Medicare patients they see are far sicker than those at neighboring hospitals. Does the chain attract the toughest cases, or are the hospitals exaggerating their patient conditions?

September 7th, 2011

Banned berry pesticide still commonly used

In some of California’s top strawberry-growing counties, levels of banned methyl bromide remain nearly as high as they were a decade ago, despite a mandated phaseout, according to an analysis by New America Media.

The fumigant was supposed to have been phased out completely by 2005, under a global pact to halt the thinning of the earth’s protective ozone layer. But in 2009, the latest year for which data is available, more than 5 million pounds of the pesticide were still in use, down just 50 percent from 2000.

A limited amount of methyl bromide is allowed in instances in which no alternative exists, through a “critical use exemption,” determined by treaty members in a three-year process and administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Strawberry growers in California are among the groups that can apply for an exemption.

As a result, in a handful of the state’s highest strawberry production areas, methyl bromide is nearly as ubiquitous as it was in 1999, indicating that not all communities in the state are benefiting similarly from the phaseout. Read the full story.

Photo: MaryAnnShmueli/istockphoto.com Article used courtesy of New America Media.

Loading tweets...


California Watch, the largest investigative journalism team operating in the state, was launched in 2009 by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Investigative Reporting. Areas of coverage include education, health and welfare, public safety, the environment and the influence of money on the political and regulatory process.