Snapshot: A Toy Story
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Snapshot - A Toy Story

 

To better understand the vast, sprawling infrastructure that creates diesel pollution, let’s imagine a little girl named “Alisha”, whose seventh birthday is weeks away. She has her heart set on a doll she saw at the toy store a few weeks ago, and she has already decided that she will name it “Kathy.” Before that doll can end up in the dollhouse that adorns Alisha’s suburban Chicago bedroom, Kathy is going to have to go on a bit of a journey. Kathy is assembled and packaged in China and packed with 20,000 other dolls into a 40-by-8-foot container. The container is loaded onto a marine vessel holding 4,000 other containers carrying dolls, shoes, and electronics. Fueled by low-quality bunker fuel, the ship leaves Shanghai and chugs across the Pacific Ocean, belching nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, particulate matter, and other pollutants all the way.

Weeks later, Kathy arrives at one of several ports along the U.S.’s western seaboard such as the Ports of Oakland, Los Angeles or Long Beach. She and the other 20,000 dolls are unloaded by longshore workers. Diesel soot from the ship, the Port’s diesel machinery, and the hundreds of idling trucks coats the workers. Alisha’s doll doesn’t get sooty, but the longshoremen will use baby wipes on their hands and faces before they go home. Kathy takes a ride in the back of a large diesel truck to a railyard. On the way she and her friends pass many other children; in fact, the railyard is one-quarter of a mile from schools and homes, often in low income communities and/or communities of color. Kathy’s container is placed on a freight train, pulled by a diesel locomotive. Alternatively, some of the dolls from Kathy’s factory are placed on another big-rig truck and sent for repackaging to a mega-warehouse 50 miles from the ports.

After Kathy’s train trip, her container is unloaded in a large distribution facility. Then, after weeks of being on the move, Kathy finally is trucked to her destination, a big-box retailer in suburban Chicago. By this time, she has traveled more than 8,000 miles, far more than Alisha ever could imagine, on diesel-burning vehicles the entire trip. In Kathy’s wake is not just diesel pollution but browner skies, health impacts, and intrusions on communities’ quality of life.

- Adapted from Hricko A. “Ships, Trucks, and Trains: Effects of Goods Movement on Environmental Health.” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 114, no. 4 (April 2006).

To better understand what can be done about diesel pollution, visit Tackling the diesel problem. To learn about the DDDC’s current activities and policy alerts, click here.

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Snap Shot " A Toy Story", Tackling the Problem, Current Action and Policy Alerts

“It’s crazy to think about how all of us are dependent upon a system for all our daily goods that is not only polluting our neighborhoods but other neighborhoods around the world.”

-  Nehanda I., Communities for a Better Environment