Families breathe in toxic fumes


Eske Campen, staff

Ana Gonzalez was driving through Rialto, California, where she has lived for 23 years, she saw a disturbing and increasingly familiar sight. Dozens of 18-wheel diesel trucks idled outside an Amazon warehouse, spewing fumes not far from a high school and homes. Gonzalez’s frustration with the high concentration of warehouses and the truck traffic they bring was spurred two years ago when she took one of her two kids, Jose, then 12, to the doctor because he was constantly coughing and getting sick. She said the doctor told her that Jose’s bronchitis and developing asthma were direct results of local pollution. Amazon alone has built 19 facilities, including fulfillment and air cargo centers, in the Inland Empire since 2012, the company confirmed. 

Walmart has at least six facilities, according to United for Respect, a nonprofit worker’s rights group. Air quality has been poor in the region for decades, in part because the landscape forms a basin where smog lingers. The boom in warehousing, compounded by more frequent wildfires, has intensified the problem over the last decade, correlating with high rates of respiratory disease, particularly among children.

More warehouses have meant more large trucks driving in and out of the predominantly Black, Latino, immigrant, and low-income neighborhoods where the facilities are based. The report recommends adopting stricter air quality regulations that are up for a vote by the board of the region’s air quality monitor on May 7. They would require warehouse operators to reduce their local emissions output or pay fines.