Oil refinery in Wilmington
Refinery in Wilmington, CA (photo by Jesse Marquez).

Eighteen-year-old Dianna Espinoza grew up in the shadow of oil refineries.

She lives in Wilmington, a largely Latino neighborhood of Los Angeles that’s heavily polluted by refineries, traffic, and power plants.

Espinoza: “The pollution definitely impacts my day-to-day life.”

Caustic refinery fumes fill the air and asthma attacks are commonplace. Espinoza says students sometimes struggle to breathe during sports activities. Local air quality is expected to get even worse as the climate warms.

Wilmington has it bad, but air pollution is also a problem in many other Latino communities. Research shows that one in three low-income Latino immigrant neighborhoods have high levels of air pollution.

In tenth grade, Espinoza joined a group called Youth for Environmental Justice.

Espinoza: “I wanted to learn more about what was happening in my communities.”

As part of the group, Espinoza participated in protest marches and hearings about local air quality. She was also inspired to volunteer for environmental causes beyond Wilmington.

Today, she’s an intern with Communities For A Better Environment, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote clean energy, healthy communities, and environmental justice for all.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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