It’s Getting Harder To Breathe In Orlando’s Poorest Neighborhood

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According to a study of air pollution in the U.S., black people are about three times more likely to die from exposure to airborne pollutants than others.

People living in one of Orlando, Florida’s neighborhoods breathe in toxic fumes — all thanks to vehicle emissions and the former Orlando Gasification Plant.

Griffin Park, which is predominantly black, is surrounded by two highways that are used by numerous cars everyday to head in and out of Orlando. 

The trees that were once visible at the sides of the highways have been cut down.

Even though air pollution has generally decreased in the United States, since the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970, it still causes 200,000 early deaths each year.

Members of the African-American community are disproportionately at risk of being affected by air pollution. According to a comprehensive Harvard University study last year of air pollution in the U.S., black people are about three times more likely to die from exposure to airborne pollutants than others.

According to the study, many of these deaths could be prevented if the federally mandated air quality standards were tightened. Reducing current levels of so-called fine particulate matter by just one microgram per cubic meter of air would save about 12,000 lives every year, the scientists found.

Another federally funded study concluded that people of color were exposed to more transportation-related pollution than white people, as low-income black people mostly tend to live in poor neighborhoods that are situated near sources of pollution such as highways. 

Griffin Park’s low-income Parramore neighborhood also shares the same fate. The people living in these areas suffer from asthma and severe allergies because of the neighborhood’s poor air quality.

“Too many people I know have cancer. Too many people I know have respiratory problems. Too many people I know don’t have the proper information to know how to diagnosis what’s going on,” said Lawanna Gelzer, a community activist. “I get upset a lot. I’m David and I have a slingshot and a rock. And Goliath is my government, my elected officials, with billions of dollars to fight me.”

Remediation at the Superfund site will begin in the first quarter of this year, a Griffin Park spokesperson told HuffPost. Yet the gasification plant is hardly Parramore's only environmental concern. There are at least 454 contaminated lots in the neighborhood, according to a 2013 EPA grant application from the city of Orlando seeking cleanup funds.

What's worse, the Trump administration is going to do away with a number of regulations and has proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency budget by almost one-third.

Thumbnail/Banner : Reuters

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