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Pollution problems are nothing new to the Boyle Heights community. Surrounded by five freeways, and a rail yard, the neighborhood has traditionally ranked among the highest in Los Angeles in levels of childhood asthma and other health risks related to pollution.
But according to new data from state environmental agencies, Boyle Heights ranks among the top five percent most environmentally burdened neighborhoods in the state.
The new study provides a statewide list of census tracts most burdened by pollution. A particular tract including a large part of Boyle Heights ranked as the ninth most vulnerable out of the nearly 8,000 tracts in California.
The Office of Environmental Health Assessment developed the new screening tool, called CalEnviroScreen. It is meant to pinpoint communities with the highest exposure and vulnerability to environmental hazards including: polluted air and water, contaminated soil, and waste facilities.
In addition to environmental exposure, the rankings take into account 19 different socioeconomic and health characteristics on residents to assess the overall community. Factors include poverty, education, unemployment, rates of asthma, and low birth-weight infants.
The data collected shows how Latinos and African Americans make up a disproportionately high percentage of the population most affected by pollution.
Many neighborhoods in East Los Angeles are covered by red and orange, a sign that these are highly burdened by pollution. Adjacent to Boyle Heights is El Sereno, a community with a census tract that ranked number 16 as most polluted on the list.
Officials say through this criteria it can best identify California’s most vulnerable populations, and make it easier for government agencies to address these risks.
Last year a similar report assessed the state by zip code (California has 1,800 zip codes). While it found similar results, the study was criticized by groups who said zip codes were too large and arbitrary.
“This scale of analysis represents a finer level of resolution for many parts of the state,” the Cal/EPA report says.
Public workshops will be held to solicit feedback on the draft versions of this map on May 7, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Junipero Serra Building, 320 W. Fourth St., Los Angeles.
Explore the interactive map below where you can input your address to see how your surroundings scored.