Transcript: In King County, pollution makes ZIP codes predictors of your health

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Dr. Julian Perez: Your ZIP code can predict your health much better than I can as a doctor just doing a draw of blood on you.


Dr. Julian Perez: The Duwamish River compared to another waterfront community within the same city of Seattle, there's 13 years’ difference in life expectancy in the same city.


Anjum Hajat: There's really a very clear overlap between environmental hazards and social inequities.


Anjum Hajat: Minority populations tend also to be those that have the highways running through them, the factories that are polluting.


Anjum Hajat: It's lower-income folks and it's minority groups that tend to bear the brunt of the air-pollution health effects.



Anjum Hajat: We know COVID is especially partial to individuals that have these underlying health conditions.



Anjum Hajat: The air you breathe is just there. There's no individual control over what, what that looks like.



Rosario Medina: My family has been here since the 1950s.



Rosario Medina: After my family had purchased property, then it starts to be heavily industrialized, polluting our air and making money off of our health basically.



Paulina López: The Duwamish Valley has very high exposures of air pollution because of where we are located.



Dr. Julian Perez: They're on one of the biggest Superfund sites in the nation, which is the Duwamish River. That was contaminated with toxins in the World War II effort that Boeing headed up to make a lot of ships and a lot of planes for war effort.



Dr. Julian Perez: They just dumped it into the river.



Dr. Julian Perez: It's polluted the neighborhood for us, but it's also polluted very sacred grounds that the Duwamish people valued for centuries prior to the arrival of Europeans.



Paulina López: And now the West Seattle Bridge has been closed.



Paulina López: And all of the reroutings are coming through the Duwamish Valley.



Paulina López: So it's additional 100,000 cars through our neighborhoods bringing, you know, more pollution.



Paulina López: We were concerned of COVID impact and how nationwide communities like the Duwamish Valley, where there is a lot of environmental injustices but concentration, high concentration, of people of color, Black, brown communities.



Rosario Medina: All my neighbors, all my family members, they have asthma, other respiratory issues.



Rosario Medina: A lot of them have unknown respiratory issues.



Rosario Medina: They keep going to the doctor, and they don't know what's wrong with them.



Rosario Medina: They just know they have complications breathing.



Dr. Julian Perez: That chronic stress, that chronic strain from the language barriers, the poor health, I'm not insured, I have to pay the bills, I'm hustling two jobs.



Dr. Julian Perez: It manifests in high blood pressure, in obesity, high cholesterol, heart attacks, early death.



Dr. Julian Perez: We have a historically high rates of asthma, cancer cluster also, many cases of breast cancer.



Rosario Medina: My mom is a senior and my grandmother is elderly.



Rosario Medina: I've had to explain to family members that they can't come in and visit. They have to follow COVID protocols: wearing a mask, staying outside, being 6 feet apart.



Rosario Medina: I just don't want them to be sick.



Rosario Medina: The more I read about it, the more scarier it becomes, and I know people who have had it and who have survived.



Rosario Medina: They're saying that their lungs are extremely impacted. They can't walk as much as they used to. Their life isn't normal anymore.



Rosario Medina: And I don't want that to happen to me or to anyone that I know.



BJ Cummings: At the University of Washington EDGE Center, we have what's called a COVID-19 rapid response grant right now.



BJ Cummings: Within King County all of the neighborhood areas that had a higher than 10% census positive rate, 89% of those had a greater percentage of people of color than the county average and 92% of those had higher poverty rates than the county average.



BJ Cummings: So overall there are higher COVID rates in south King County than within the city of Seattle, but the disparities within the city of Seattle itself are also very pronounced.



BJ Cummings: South Park and Delridge neighborhoods and parts of Rainier Valley.



BJ Cummings: And then those communities with high COVID also experience overall poor health outcomes, including shorter life expectancy, a lot of social and economic inequities and currently insufficient access to free testing services.



BJ Cummings: That area is also where we see the highest environmental health disparities.



BJ Cummings: You can clearly see the overlap in the red on the maps.



BJ Cummings: I think that this (sigh) has ironically given us an opportunity to really examine the intersectionality of health and race and investments in our community or lack of investments in our community.



Paulina López: Welcome you all.



Paulina López: Thank you for being here.



Paulina López: I hope everyone is enjoying summer in a very weird way that we live in now.



Paulina López: We do a lot of community engagement, community participatory research, community science projects.



Paulina López: We have been working on empowerment for our youth, specifically youth of color.



Paulina López: You were the ones who help us sample all those trees and make sure that we get results that we can have an action and improve the quality of our community.



Leilani Gutierrez: I grew up in South Park and I did not know what was going on like two blocks away from my house.



Leilani Gutierrez: And so once I like joined the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps, it was a huge eye opener.



Leilani Gutierrez: I learned that South Park and Georgetown have high asthma rates, that we have the lowest tree canopy within Seattle.



Leilani Gutierrez: It was just so many injustices that I didn't know were going on.



Faith Villalobos: The name of this is the Moss Study.



Faith Villalobos: So the Moss Study was collected on trees in the community.



Faith Villalobos: We would take out little like debris that wasn't a moss and we would separate it and then from there we would weigh it, and that process then was sent to the scientist so they can test the quality of the moss.



Faith Villalobos: The purpose behind this study was making sure that we could show people that our air is polluted in the communities of South Park and Georgetown.



Leilani Gutierrez: I would like to see more resources, meaning more grocery stores, like a post office, police station.



Leilani Gutierrez: I would also — more schools.



Leilani Gutierrez: I would also like to see more green walls and trees.



Leilani Gutierrez: Well, right now we're working on a podcast to help raise awareness.



Youth member: I think we should plant more trees. That way we can have a cleaner air for the children and the youth around us ’cause this is our home.



Rosario Medina: I see each, each home has a different story.



Rosario Medina: My friends, my family, my neighbors, their safety is my priority.



Paulina López: I think this is the time to listen to those voices fully.



Leilani Gutierrez: If you're going through something, don't just sit there and watch.



Leilani Gutierrez: Don't be a bystander.



Leilani Gutierrez: Advocate for yourself, for your parents, friends, community members.



Leilani Gutierrez: Everyone's going through a rough patch right now.



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