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San Bernardino rail yard communities targeted for health study

June 8, 2011 |  1:11 pm

Bnsf

Southern California air quality regulators are sponsoring an in-depth study to determine if the San Bernardino rail yard, a major inland hub of goods shipped across the U.S., has caused a rise in cancer and asthma in the neighboring low-income communities.

The study comes two years after the California Air Resources Board determined that diesel emissions from locomotives, big rigs and other equipment at the facility posed a significant health risk to thousands of residents living near the site, and that the facility posed the greatest cancer risk of any rail yard in California.

“This is an opportunity to finally gauge the nature and extent of the problem,’’ San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris said.

The San Bernardino rail yard is a 168-acre Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway facility operating around the clock in the heart of San Bernardino, a crucial transfer hub for big rigs and freight trains hauling cargo.

A federal appeals court last year stuck down an effort by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is sponsoring the new study, to limit emissions from the locomotives. The court ruled that the agency overstepped its authority, and that only the federal government can regulate interstate commerce.

The new two-year study will be conducted by researchers at Loma Linda University, and will determine the number of fatal cancer cases in the area from 1999-2008, and include a household and school-based survey to determine the prevalence of asthma and other respiratory diseases. As part of the study, Loma Linda also will provide medical treatment to residents affected by the emissions.

Related:

Rail-yard pollution: federal court rules agains air quality board

A new crop of eco-warriors take to their own streets

--Phil Willon

Photo: The study would examine effects of freight trains, such as this BNSF train headed up the Alameda Corridor to San Bernardino's massive rail yard. Credit: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times

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