Pollution, poverty take toll

San Joaquin Valley residents at elevated risk of illness and premature death

More than 1 million people living in California’s San Joaquin Valley—known for its abundance of factory farms and other big commercial-agriculture operations—are exposed to elevated environmental and social risk factors, a new study finds.

A three-year study conducted by the Center for Regional Change at the University of California, Davis pinpointed cumulative health risks in both rural and urban areas of the valley, according to a press release. Valley residents are routinely exposed to pesticides in water and fine-particulate air pollution. The combination of pollution with the poverty, low education, language barriers, etc., of many of the residents results in a higher rate of serious illness and premature death. The communities with the most pronounced vulnerability are west Fresno, Monterey Park, Kettleman City, Matheny Tract, Earlimart and Wasco; Bakersfield and Modesto were also mentioned as areas of concern.

“Our conclusion is that immediate and comprehensive action is needed by local, regional and state policymakers to protect the health and well-being of the region’s most vulnerable residents,” said Jonathan London, the study’s lead author.