Practicum Project | 2023

Assessing the effects of warehouse and logistics operations on air quality and public health in environmental justice communities

Air pollution from diesel vehicles harms human health and the environment. While air pollution is a widespread issue, the harmful effects accumulate in heavily trafficked areas, which disproportionately burdens vulnerable communities where industry, ports, railways, and factories are located. Some of the most recognized pollutants include benzene, nitrous oxides (NOX), carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter (PM), and ozone. Both acute and chronic exposure to these pollutants have been linked to negative health effects including asthma, pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.

The Inland Empire in Southern California, consisting of Riverside County and part of San Bernardino County, has one of the highest concentrations of warehouses in the nation. Warehouses are filled with engines and machinery and are frequented by large pollution-producing trucks. The number of warehouses in the region is increasing at a staggering rate – over 35.5 million square feet of warehouse floor space was built in the Inland Empire in 2021 alone. San Bernardino and Riverside have the highest levels of ozone pollution in the US and are both ranked in the top ten for worst PM pollution. The frequency of citations for air quality violations is also increasing. 

The population living within half a mile of the billion square feet of warehouse space in the Inland Empire is 62.1% Latinx and 7.6% Black, while the counties at large are 45.4% Latinx and 6.5% Black (Barboza, 2021). There is a clear correlation between pollution burden and race, which is a significant environmental justice concern.

Furthermore, hundreds of schools fall within 1000 feet of a warehouse which poses a serious concern for children, whose brains, lungs, and organs are still developing. In collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, our team will conduct a qualitative and quantitative analysis of air pollution legislation in the area, and identify key statutes which provide an existing or emergent basis for regulation.

Student Team:  Isabella Blanco, Emily Cline, Racquel Fox, Carolina Gomez Navarro, Joanne Kwak, Eleanor Murphy, Amanda Wallace

Client: Natural Resources Defense Council

Advisor: Maggie Isied