Breaking News
More () »

Air pollution and respiratory issues at border are far worse than rest of county

The higher wait time at the border, the higher our monitor would read at that time,” said Amador. The San Ysidro monitor's highest readings are of black carbons.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Even when it looks like a nice day at our border, looks can be deceiving. An air pollution monitor set up at San Ysidro’s fire station shows the reality of what people are breathing in. It shows that particulate matter or pollution is usually up in that area, especially in the mornings.

The pollution data from this monitor directly correlates with the high border wait times, according to Alejandro Amador who oversees the Environmental Justice Program at Casa Familiar, “The higher wait time at the border, the higher our monitor would read at that time,” said Amador. That is because there are more cars sitting idle, spewing fumes that people should not be breathing in.

Dr. David Sodeman, Chief of Monitoring and Technical Services Division for San Diego County Air Pollution Control District says, “Cars are a big source of our air pollution in San Diego County. Regionwide, it counts for about 70-80 percent of all pollution.”

The San Ysidro monitor's highest readings are of black carbons, which includes diesel particulate matter. Sodeman said, “Diesel particulate matter is an important pollutant to measure because it has very toxic emissions and (creates a) high cancer risk.”

It also leads to asthma and other respiratory issues. In fact, the CalEnviroScreen 4.0 shows San Ysidro is in the top 78% for asthma rates compared to the rest of California.

Asthma impacts most people in Amador’s family, “three out of five in my family actually have asthma. They get strong asthma attacks when conditions are ‘right,’ in a sense. But yes, they have to carry their inhalers and sometimes at night they have to use bigger machines so they can sleep better.”

Amador grew up in Tijuana and moved to San Ysidro at age 11. He also deals with respiratory issues like sinusitis, “It’s not too unusual to feel your lungs and throat irritated. There’s definitely times of the day where it feels heavy to breathe so you tend not to exercise outside or walk at a park or go outside.”

While he is is accustomed to it and makes adjustments to his routine to get by, he also has an important message for the rest of San Diego, “I think we’re all born with the right to clean air and the right to a certain quality of life.”

Part of the solution to gain cleaner air, is to reduce border wait times by adding the staffing to open up more lanes. According to Dr. Sodeman, “More lanes, more people, open up more lanes if they’re not all open then they’re not doing any good.”

Opening border lanes may seem like a simple fix but it’s a complicated one due to staffing issues. However, it’s one that could help people like Amador, his family, and the nearly 30,000 others who call San Ysidro home breathe a little bit easier.

“San Ysidro has been a huge economic power to the rest of San Diego just by being a border (community) so I think it’s only fair that because of the years we’ve been marginalized and disinvested in, that we need to pay attention to San Ysidro,” says Amador.

To find the air quality near you, visit www.airnow.gov and input your zip code or city name.

Also, if you’re looking for historical or current data for any monitoring site, click here.

WATCH RELATED: Our Home, Our Future: Earth 8 special  

Before You Leave, Check This Out