Crude justice
Community-based research amid oil development in South Los Angeles
in Toxic truths

The Los Angeles basin contains one of the highest concentrations of crude oil in the world. Today, thousands of active wells are located among a dense population of 10 million people. In poor communities and communities of color, distances between wells and residences, schools, and healthcare facilities is closer than in wealthier neighborhoods. These communities are further exposed to contamination via outdated emissions equipment. In partnership with two South Los Angeles community-based organizations, we gathered data on health and experiences of living near to oil wells. The partnership utilized a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to conduct bilingual surveys of 205 residences within 1,500 feet of the oil field and used low-cost sensors to measure methane emissions, correlated to CARB’s (California Air Resources Board) emissions inventory. Rates of asthma as diagnosed by a physician were significantly higher (18%) than in Los Angeles County (11%); 45% of respondents had no knowledge that they lived near active oil development; and 63% of residents reported they would not know how to contact the local regulatory authority. This research is part of an ongoing effort to support community organizing to establish a health and safety buffer between active urban oil development and neighborhoods.

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Toxic truths

Environmental justice and citizen science in a post-truth age

Editors: Thom Davies and Alice Mah

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