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West Dallas Community Leaders To Address Air Pollution Problems

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The skyline of Dallas

West Dallas community leaders are stepping in to address the neighborhood’s air pollution problems. 

The study called “Poisoned by Zip Code'' by the environmental advocacy organization Downwinders At Risk and Paul Quinn College revealed the West Dallas zip code 75212 was the worst in the city for air pollution. 

The study was released in April but has recently prompted many organizations including Southern Sector Rising, Inclusive Communities Project and the coalition West Dallas 1 to host a Spanish town hall on Facebook Live called, “Proyecto de Autodefensa Vecindario del Sur de Dallas.” This is part of a broader new initiative called Neighborhood Self-Defense Project, which is calling for major changes to the city of Dallas zoning practices. 

“What we are seeing now and what we are trying to do is undo the racist zoning practices that have built this city and segregated people from each other and segregated industries into specific areas,” said Evelyn Mayo, the chair of Downwinders At Risk and co-leader of the town hall. 

Mayo said the city of Dallas’ industrial zoning is partly to blame for the air pollution in West Dallas, because major air polluters are often located close to residential areas and affordable housing. One example she provided was the roofing company GAF which is located on Singleton Boulevard. 

The study found that in the City of Dallas, there is a 15-year difference in life expectancy depending on the zip code that you live in and how bad that area’s air pollution is. The areas highest at risk are in South Dallas, where there are higher numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in those neighborhoods. Air pollution leads to respiratory conditions like asthma, which puts people at higher risk for the coronavirus. 

The Neighborhood Self-Defense Project’s goal is to develop community-created neighborhood plans that better protect communities of color from what they call ‘environmental racism.’ 

"These problems have been ignored because of the gentrification also happening in these neighborhoods," Mayo said.

The organizations involved want these conversations to be accessible to everyone. The neighborhood of West Dallas’ Latino population is majority native Spanish speakers so they’ve decided to make this town hall in Spanish. 

The virtual Neighborhood Self-Defense Project town hall begins at 6 p.m on Tuesday, June 28. It will be available for anyone to join on Southern Sector Rising's Facebook page.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the economic impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow her on Twitter @_martinez_ale.

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