I can’t breathe!!! The Inconvenient Truth of the trash problem in the inner city.

I have recently spent about a month working for a client in Compton. And as this month has progressed it has become more and more difficult for me to breathe during the week days.

It disappears when I get home.

After a three day weekend taking a break and coming back home this evening and feeling horrible I decided to do some research in regards to the pollution around Compton.

Now Compton has had a reputation in recent years of being dangerous. My time there hasn’t been dangerous. The section around LA is a little shady (because the City of LA does a fabulous job of making sure the working class and neighborhoods of color have as hard of a enough time as possible making anything better,) but when you get to downtown Compton it’s fine. I pass by well kept lawns, kids riding their bikes, older ladies telling me hi. Compton is a city that seems very proactive in taking control of its image back.

Bus stops have matching trash cans, graffiti is promptly cleaned, some great development of mixed used housing going up along Compton’s Blue Line Station.

But when I got home last Friday and couldn’t breathe I thought about my many odd breathless times in Compton and I thought something has got to be wrong. I thought it was me, but today on my journey I took a look. I went on the 51, the 53 and walked the streets.

I saw lots of industry in Compton and what I found  with my research scared me. It scared me more than the phantom boogie gangster man lurking supposedly in every corner.

Compton seems to be the magnet for every cancer causing air polluting industry in LA County. And Compton is not that big. I’m surprised that everyone in Compton isn’t dying from asthma or cancer.

Compton is home to:
(What pounds of pollution in easy to read format to those who are not eco-junkies)

Dameron Alloy Foundries Inc-4,344.71 pounds of pollution per year from eight different pollutants which includes nickel and nickel compounds (causes chronic bronchitis lung and sinus cancer) chromium and chromium compounds (cause liver and kidney damage)

Foamex LP– 40,395.12 pounds of pollution per year from 15 different pollutants. which includes diisocyanates (cause repository damage and asthma and potentially cancerous)

Owens Corning -360,612.11 pounds of pollution of pollution from seven different pollutants which includes polycyclic aromatic compounds (causes urinary and lung cancer) copper and copper compounds (causes liver and kidney damage)

There is also Century Plastics, Advanced Energy Sources (9,425 pounds of pollution per year from six different pollutants), Artesia Manufacturing Company (10,000 pounds per year from seven different pollutants), Brea Canon Oil Company-Albert (25,000 pounds per year from four different pollutants), JBI Manufactures (industrial furniture), Butcher Co (manufactures polishes and other sanitation goods) Merit Abrasive Products (manufacturers abrasive products for cleaning), Morrel Electro Plating (performs electroplating, plating, polishing, anodizing, and coloring.)

The list goes on and on. This doesn’t even include the places near Compton like Paramount that has dozens of companies or the big daddy of all polluters the Exxon Oil Refinery in Torrance which was just made to pay a six million dollar fine for polluting the air around the southern section of LA County.

I’m confused as to how and why does it seem like so many cancer causing and asthma inducing company are in a city that is only 10.2 square miles.

People always like to call neighborhoods that are filled with working class people of color dirty, but it seems to me the biggest dirt bags and murderers of the planet tend to wear three piece suits and live on the “better” side of town.

Maybe before anyone comes and tells us to pick up trash they might want to work on telling their parents to check in their stock portfolio and check to see how clean it is.

It’s kind of funny that the same people who tell you to not focus on race or gender, because it’s a “little” issue in comparison to the “big” issues is the same person that will go on and on about a little trash in a neighborhood by a little person when a big corporation up the street is killing the air and the people who breath it by spitting out hundreds and thousands of pounds of pollutants into the air.

I guess that would be called the “convenient” discussion.

Info gotten from

Planet Hazard

SmogStack USA Today

by Browne Molyneux

This entry was posted in Analysis, Greater Los Angeles, Politica, The Ethnics and tagged , , , by Browne Molyneux. Bookmark the permalink.

About Browne Molyneux

My name is Browne Molyneux. I'm a lady. I'm a radical feminist. I'm black. I'm an Angeleno. I'm an artist. I'm carFREE. I'm a freelance writer. I'm a blogger. I'm a philosopher. I'm a humanist. I'm a journalist. I formerly wrote a column on transportation, Tracks for LA City Beat. The above are all of the things I have to work on being, got questions email me. browne@shametrainla.com My topics of interests include but are not limited to politics, transportation, dark green issues, economics, race relations, feminism, culture, working class urban life, media, art, Los Angeles and literature.

16 thoughts on “I can’t breathe!!! The Inconvenient Truth of the trash problem in the inner city.

  1. It is not just Compton, but also the rest of the 26 “Gateway Cities”. Commerce, Vernon and South Gate to name a few have industries that emit lots of pollutants. The Council of Governments is supposed to be monitoring air quality and at the same time they are trying to reduce pollution. The recent proposal has been the controversial diesel truck retrofit, which is not getting any traction because it is too expensive for truckers who probably happen to be resdents of these cities.


    About twelve years ago I developed allergies while working on a blight study of Sun Valley and surrounding communities. I would also come home and feel better — meaning that the air quality in the Gateway cities was much better than it was in Sun Valley.

  2. I’ve also heard the area around Olympic and Soto is pretty bad, it’s the gateway to the Gateway cities. You have the trucks that rumble along Soto day and night and the 5 Fwy right up against neighborhood houses.
    There are rumors (perhaps more than that but I can’t cite anything right now) that folks in this area have higher incidences of cancer.
    Thanks for documenting this info. It’s good to have it all up in one place for future reference.

  3. It’s not only the industries in the area, but it’s the wind that’s a culprit here, too. Compton is north of the Wilmington/Carson refineries and just east of the 110. Particles are carried and spread out throughout the Gateway Cities, as urbanista pointed out.

  4. And there all the trucks driving to and from the port along the 710 freeway, and the Alameda corridor.
    I remember that one time (1989?) our family had to be evacuated from our south east East LA home because a factory in Commerce spilled hydrochloric gas. I am surprised that they showed concern — it must have been worse than just a spill.

  5. “Maybe before anyone comes and tells us to pick up trash they might want to work on telling their parents to check in their stock portfolio and check to see how clean it is.”

    HAHA, so true. Hey, but I’m sure the offspring bought a few of those “this is not a plastic bag” eco-fashion accessories, so that must count for something, right?

  6. I’ll have to do some more research. I was shocked at the amount of industries in and around Compton and how quickly I felt shitty. And the thing is I could easily find info on the name the gateways cities, south central and east LA, it was very, very hard to find information on Compton specifically which makes me think someone is trying to hide something.

    I remember even reading and article on Compton pollution in the Wave, but I can’t find the article, it’s just weird that you can’t find anything on this in regards to Compton.

    I found plenty of info on the 710, the truck thing, but nothing on the industries specifically in Compton, polluting Compton air and there are alot of them.


  7. Browne,
    You might want to check out Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) in Huntington Park. They’re an environmental justice org. that focuses on pollution from the ports up to the Eastside. They should have information. They’re nice people, I used to be involved there.

  8. Thanks Browne! You hit it right on the head—“who really is the culprit for making the inner city so dirty, caustic and scary?”

  9. I think you point out something else interesting about Compton. There is quite a bit of industry there, which you would assume would equal a pretty big tax base. However, even though I agree that Compton is not as bad as what the common perception is, the city government could still do a lot more for it’s residents.

    My wife was born and raised there, we go at least once a week to visit her family. She thinks the biggest problem there is corruption in city government. While probably not as bad as the Omar Bradley days, you still have to wonder why the city services aren’t better where there is so much industry and a casino.

  10. I hope this doesn’t get flagged as spam.

    I believe you can be a trash-picking nag and opposed to industrial pollution. They should be two sides of the same coin.

    Often, the people doing the littering are also people excessively concerned with keeping up the cleanliness of their cars, without regard for others. Likewise, the people who operate these polluting businesses live in less polluted neighborhoods.











  11. While I understand that Compton has had some major problems with corruption in the past, (but what politician isn’t corrupt?)

    The companies that I’m naming have been there for a long time, a very long time, many of them have roots going back to WW2 or before that, so the corruption of recent times didn’t bring those companies to Compton, they may have kept them in Compton.

    My point of my post really was to point out the hypocrisy of the green movement or the greenie movement that will have a silly conversation or dedicate a whole blog to bringing a bag, buying a light bulb, getting an electric car, picking up your trash and riding a bike, but yet this same greenie movement refuses to even discuss issues of racism, sexism, immigrant rights, because they say these are little issues.

    And I wouldn’t have an issue with the pick up your trash, bring your own bag conversation if it included conversation on the little things like race, class and gender in addition to the bigger issues like pollution by these big industry type of polluters that is doing WAY more harm to the inner city than someone not using a trash can.

    To me if you’re willing to talk about the whole picture and you want to get anal on the whole litter bug thing fine, but more often and not you’re not talking to people like alienation, you’re talking to people who won’t talk about those other issues and will get down right defensive if you do bring up those issues.

    Like Art’s post:

    That conversation should be had WAY more than the simple, “pick up your trash” and don’t use plastic conversation and it’s not and that’s sad.

    Too many convenient conversation having in the greenie movement owing to it being co-opted by people who want to make green.


  12. Sometimes, I get the impression that the green scene is too concerned about its own purity.

    In caste-based societies like India (and Japan to some extent) the “dirty” jobs, like butchering meat and collecting garbage, are assigned to the lower castes. That’s because the people near the top wanted to remain “pure” (i.e. vegetarian, clean, etc.). Their solution to their religious fanaticism: have the people not invited to the temple do the dirty jobs. That’s a lot like the situation in L.A. There’s a caste-like quality to pollution.

    It’s mostly immigrants who end up in jobs like trucking, to haul stuff from the ports to Vegas or wherever they unload. (The IE or Colton?) They live along their routes, too, in gateway cities, which have bad air quality because, really, they were basically designated to have it, a long time ago. (See the Vernon history.)

    Likewise, the modern caste-like system assigns factory jobs to the working class. These factories all pollute – either directly through energy intensive heating or cooling, incineration, manufacturing, or traffic. They also harm some of the workers, by exposing them to hazardous materials (often made from petroleum) in high concentrations. (That and the machinery, of course.)

    Addressing this caste-like system of concentrating pollution into working class communities has to be part of the whole “green” thing.

    Changing to green products and local production is a good thing – it helps create safer jobs. The question is – are these consumers willing to push to make the environment better for people in the polluted communities? (Some are – they made their appearance at the South Central Farm, and pushed the owner to sell the farm. But, they either failed to mobilize, or they lack power.)

    Going green will cost more, possibly a lot more. Dismantling the caste-like system will cost the affluent folks the most, because it implies relocating some industry into the “clean” neighborhoods, thus lowering property values.

  13. Nice analysis Browne and alienation!
    I don’t think the affluent class is ready to sully up their neighborhoods quite yet no matter how “green” they proclaim to be. For instance, all this consumerism around green products and green building when the really green thing would be to keep using whatever old stuff you have until it runs out. (You should see the car I drive to work. I’m sure people laugh at me but it seems a waste to not use it as long as it gets me from point a to point b.) I wonder how long the green trend will last? I wonder how many Hollywood startlets, scenesters and yoga moms have quit veganism already?
    Anyways, caste systems will not end through politeness.

  14. People love the idea of “green” energy until it turns out the best place for a wind farm is in their backyard. Solar panels are great as long as you don’t have the factory that makes them (so much toxic shit goes into harnessing the sun’s energy) in your backyard and aren’t the one working the factory being exposed at high levels. Even socal’s beloved Prius is suspect because no one knows what to do with those batteries once they are no longer useable.

    “Addressing this caste-like system of concentrating pollution into working class communities has to be part of the whole “green” thing.”

    Yes! As a student of environment and health-related things, it frustrates me that when environmental justice issues are discussed, it’s always as a separate idea rather than part of the whole.

  15. This segregating of the conversation is what’s making the environmental movement failed. Instead of the green movement aligning itself with the social justice communities it has instead decided to align itself with the capitalist communities.

    Amazing. I guess since they are more closely related to corporate America since those are their parents that would make more logical sense in their minds.

    I used to be a great admirer of the Gristmill until they gave Rupert Murdoch an interview where they threw softball questions at him just because one of the bloggers got a book published under one of his companies.

    Currently on the front page of Gristmill there is a story about LEED. I just can’t stand it. This is why in general I’m not part of any movement or club or group, because in general anytime someone forms a group it becomes about power and control and that leads to caring about money and then it’s all downhill from there…


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