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Transcript: A Breath of Air

A BREATH OF AIR
THE CHILDREN’S HEALTH STUDY

Fade up music

Toni Taylor As a parent, there’s nothing you can do when your child says that they can’t
breathe, a glass of water is not going to ya know open their airways. You know,
there’s nothing they can cough up. It’s a terrible feeling.

Robin Coutu The smog is very bad where we live in the summer. It’s very bad. And you
know if you can feel it from just your everyday life, to me that’s scary.

Irma Meza It’s a terrible terrible thing to imagine that they’re pulling in all that smog into
their little bodies.

Penny Newman I think for the first time, what parents are beginning to understand is that it isn’t just somebody out there is being affected by air pollution, but that their child is being affected.

TITLE SEQUENCE

TITLE ON SCREEN: A BREATH OF AIR: WHAT POLLUTION IS DOING TO OUR CHILDREN

NARRATOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA…HOME TO THE NATION’S LARGEST FREEWAY SYSTEM…AND TO THOUSANDS OF MANUFACTURING AND INDUSTRIAL FACILITIES.

ALMOST 13 MILLION CARS AND TRUCKS TRAVEL THESE ROADS EVERYDAY.

THEY EMIT ENOUGH POLLUTANTS TO HAVE EARNED LOS ANGELES THE TITLE OF MOST POLLUTED CITY IN THE COUNTRY.

WE ALL KNOW THAT AIR POLLUTION IS BAD FOR US. WE’VE SEEN THE IMAGES BEFORE: PEOPLE RUBBING THEIR EYES ON DAYS WHEN THE SMOG WAS REALLY THICK…

BUT TODAY THE EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION ARE NOT THIS OBVIOUS. SO IN THE EARLY NINETIES… SCIENTISTS STARTED TO WONDER IF MORE SUBTLE HEALTH DAMAGE MIGHT BE HAPPENING TO CHILDREN WHO GROW UP BREATHING AIR POLLUTION EVERYDAY.

NOBODY REALLY KNEW THE ANSWER. THAT’S WHY THE STATE AGENCY CHARGED WITH ENSURING SAFE…CLEAN AIR FOR ALL CALIFORNIANS STEPPED IN. THE CALIFORNIA AIR RESOURCES BOARD WAS DETERMINED TO FIND OUT IF CHILDREN ARE HARMED BY PROLONGED… REPEATED EXPOSURE TO AIR POLLUTION.

CATEGORY MARKER =What is the Children’s Health Study?

SO IN 1991… THE BOARD BEGAN PLANNING THE LARGEST EVERLONG-TERM STUDY ON AIR POLLUTION’S HEALTH EFFECTS ON CALIFORNIA’S CHILDREN. IT BECAME KNOWN AS THE CHILDREN’S HEALTH STUDY.

John Peters, What is the Children’s Health Study?

The children’s health study was set up about 10 years ago to determine whether there are chronic effects of air pollution in Southern California. It had been known for years that there are acute effects, that is, it’ll make your eyes water or make you cough. But the question is, does prolonged breathing of this kind of air result in permanent, irreversible damage to the lung.

Narrator DR. JOHN PETERS LEADS THE TEAM OF SCIENTISTS WHO CONDUCT THE STUDY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN
CALIFORNIA’S KECK SCHOOL OF MEDICINE. THE EXTENSIVE STUDY INVOLVES MONITORING AIR QUALITY… TESTING POLLUTION SAMPLES… EXAMINING CHILDREN’S HEALTH… AND THEN ANALYZING ALL THE DATA COLLECTED.

DR. JIM GAUDERMAN HEADS UP THE STATISTICAL GROUP THAT ANALYZES THE DATA.

Jim Gauderman We’re trying to ultimately see whether kids who lived in high air pollution communities had more respiratory symptoms or slower lung capacity growth.

Narration THIS IS A QUESTION TONI TAYLOR WORRIES ABOUT. SHE HAS FOUR CHILDREN… AND THEY ALL HAVE ASTHMA.

Teffani When I’m having an asthma attack, it kind of feels like you’re being suffocated.

TRACK TEFFANI AND TESSANI ARE TWINS. THEY WERE DIAGNOSED WITH ASTHMA AT AGE FIVE. TAMEIKA WAS DIAGNOSED AT AGE 2… AND MAX… BY THE TIME HE WAS JUST 6 MONTHS OLD.

Toni Their chest sits up, and it, just kind of ‘hah, ah, ah, ah’ but theirs is accompanied with a whistling, a wheezing.

NARRATOR NOBODY KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT CAUSES ASTHMA, BUT SCIENTISTS HAVE BEEN STUDYING A HOST OF CONTRIBUTING FACTORS, LIKE GENETICS AND DIET, AS WELL AS ENVIRONMENTAL CAUSES LIKE … INDOOR ALLERGENS AND NOW… AIR POLLUTION.

TONI AND HER KIDS LIVE IN LONG BEACH… FIVE MINUTES AWAY FROM THE PORT … LESS THAN A BLOCK AWAY FROM A BUSY
FREEWAY WITH A LOT OF TRUCKS…AND SURROUNDED ON THE NORTH… SOUTH… AND WEST… BY REFINERIES.

TONI How could it not be possible for them to ingest the things that are burning into their air you know and it not to affect
them?

JIM GAUDERMAN Children are probably most sensitive to air pollution because for one their lungs are developing and so as those lungs develop any assault to that developing tissue may have a large impact compared to an adult.

Children, typically are outside more, exercising, breathing more rapidly than adults are. … so in the same environment as an adult may actually be breathing in a lot more air pollution…And… If you follow the pollution patterns they typically peak … in the hours say from 3-6 in the afternoon and that correlates very well with when you see kids outside and being active.

Irma Meza I and my children live here in Riverside. My oldest child is now 19 …And then I have Charisma, who is 11…And um my son, who’s just turned 9, Rueben, and the baby…He’s uh 18 months old. Sergio.

NARRATOR IRMA MEZA’S KIDS ARE ALL HEALTHY…. BUT SHE WORRIES ABOUT THE HIDDEN EFFECTS AIR POLLUTION MAY BE HAVING ON THEM.

Irma Meza I grew up in this area, and um I lived just down the street, and we have a view of the mountainsides here. Charisma and Rueben in the morning will be getting ready for school and we’ll look out our front living room which shows the mountainside. Just as when I was a teenager, if we cannot see the mountain that day we know it’s going to be a bad day.

BARRY WALLERSTEIN Our air pollution problem in Southern California is severe because of a combination of a lot of people in a relatively small place surrounded by mountains with weather conditions that are conducive to the formation of smog.

NARRATOR MOST OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S AIR POLLUTION COMES FROM TRAFFIC… INDUSTRY…AND THE PORTS. AND DIESEL TRUCKS ARE A MAJOR CULPRIT. HUGE AMOUNTS OF THESE POLLUTANTS ARE GENERATED IN THE CENTRAL PART OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY. SO RESIDENTS WHO LIVE THERE ARE THE FIRST ONES EXPOSED TO THEM.

JIM GAUDERMAN So in the LA area we have a predominantly onshore flow of air, which means it comes off the Pacific
Ocean and heads from west to east. So given that most of the automobile traffic occurs in the downtown LA area and the associated freeways that circulate around that area… those pollutants are then kind of lifted up off the ground and they start to head eastward. And so as they head eastward these pollutants react with sunlight and form into particles, they form into acid, they form into nitrogen dioxide, they form into ozone along the way. And so the most polluted places that we see are approximately 40-50 miles east of the LA area…And adding to that is the fact that we have mountain ranges that border us on the north and they kind of curve around and border a little bit on the east as well. So it provides kind of a stew pot for the air to sit.

NARRATOR ROBIN COUTU LIVES RIGHT IN THE HEART OF THIS STEWPOT IN AN AREA CALLED PEDLEY. NOT ONLY DOES SHE GET L-A’S POLLUTION, BUT HER COMMUNITY HAS PLENTY OF ITS OWN POLLUTION SOURCES.

ROBIN COUTOU I’m surrounded by four freeways within maybe a 20-mile radius, but I’m very close to one freeway, and it’s a very busy freeway, with a lot of trucks, there’s a lot of truck stops, and there’s a lot of truck distribution centers. There’s also, two major train lines. The train actually goes right maybe about half a mile from my house. And that diesel is bad.

NARRATOR SO BAD THAT THE CALIFORNIA AIR RESOURCES BOARD HAS DECLARED THE TINY PARTICLES IN DIESEL EXHAUST “TOXIC” EXPOSURE TO THE PARTICLES IS LINKED TO BOTH CANCER AND ASTHMA.

ROBIN If it’s a really smoggy day, I’d prefer that my kids just stay in.

Sound up of soccer playing

NARRATOR ROBIN’S DAUGHTER MICHELLE DEVELOPED ASTHMA AT AGE ELEVEN.

Robin During the summer, —sometimes they’ll have practice during the dead of the day and I don’t want her here cuz I—I don’t want her to be sick.

PENNY NEWMAN We have more and more parents talking about their children developing asthma now, or how their child had to drop out of his swimming team because of, he simply couldn’t do it anymore. How the coach at the high school talks about their track team, and how the kids could barely make it around the field, and I guess that’s why the USC study was so important, it shows that we really have a problem here that needs to be addressed.

Centers Funded By:
Centers Funded by Epa and NIEHS

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