Poverty and Racism Leave People More Vulnerable to Wildfire Smoke
Speaker 1: 00:00 Even if you're not in the path of a wildfire, you've likely been smelling and breathing the smoke. That's been blanketing, many parts of the state. And as we've seen with the COVID pandemic place and race play a role when it comes to who is affected most by bad air today, we're heading to one neighborhood in East Solano County, city of LA Haute to meet an 11 year old girl with asthma. It turns out the place where she lives is bad for her health, for all kinds of reasons. And as reporter Lee Romney tells us these recent fires are just the latest to tax her young lungs to cure lives with her mom and two brothers at the Marina Vista apartments, a low income housing development of blocky. Two story buildings in downtown Vallejo, public health experts say it's one of the most unhealthy neighborhoods in the state to Kira was diagnosed with asthma when she was five. Her first big health crisis came three years later Speaker 2: 00:54 That day, no seven as mythic started when they were like, I was really, really sick Speaker 1: 01:01 Tequila managed to fall asleep. And in the middle of the night, she says her cat woke her mom up. Yes, Speaker 2: 01:07 Because I guess like my face was all purple and stuff and I can read Speaker 1: 01:12 Mom Shawntera Dolton ran into the living room where to cure a sleeps. Speaker 2: 01:16 When I looked at her face, her face was all blue and I hurry up and put the treatment on her. I immediately rushed her to the hospital that night. They immediately gave her little bunch of helium and oxygen at the same time Speaker 1: 01:29 To cure is thin and live like a blade of wild grass swaying in the wind. She tends to put a positive spin on things, even that emergency treatment of Heliox, which doctors save for the most serious cases Speaker 2: 01:43 Put on that for an hour. And then his kind of getting frustrating beyond that for out, because I couldn't even talk because my mom couldn't understand me because thing was on my mouth and on my nose. So then it made me feel like it made me sound like a squeaky mouse Speaker 1: 02:05 Days later to cure went home with a bunch of new prescriptions, but her records show her mom would run out of key maintenance meds over the next few years, partly because of the hitches with her Medicap. That's just one example of how well that can impact health gaps into curious treatment made controlling her asthma harder. And she landed back in the ER again and again, Speaker 2: 02:35 County Sheriff's office, mandatory evacuation order. Leave your homes, Sonoma County sheriff. Speaker 1: 02:40 That's a deputy's body cam from the October, 2017 tubs, fire it raged through Sonoma and Napa counties in the year after that fire to Kira was rushed to the emergency room with bad asthma attacks every three to four months, not on the days when the smoke was at its worst, but after I asked dr. John bombs about this, he's a UC professor of medicine and environmental health sciences who studies the impact of air pollution on kids. Speaker 3: 03:17 It's based on what we know from outdoor air pollution and about asthma biology in general, the effects can be a cumulative Speaker 1: 03:30 There's a lot. We still don't know about the longterm health effects of wildfire smoke, but a recent Stanford university study showed potentially lasting damage to the immune systems of kids. Who'd been exposed to fire smoke and an investigation by reveal for the center for investigative reporting, found a spike in ER visits for lung and heart ailments for kids and adults months after the Tubbs fire and the fires just keep coming schools all around Northern California are closed and people are being told to stay indoors as smoke from the deadly camp. Wildfire continues to drift South the 2018 campfire destroyed the Butte County town of paradise. And three months after that to cure, it was back in the hospital, working very hard to breathe. Her medical notes say unable to hold a long conversation. Speaker 2: 04:24 I was scared because I had to get an Ivy and I don't like IVs, but after, but an Ivy, they always put it in the same arm, but then he's running. She know I scare, she took her time putting the fluid all the way Speaker 1: 04:37 To Kira put on a brave face about that Ivy and about the ambulance ride. When she was transferred to the pediatric ICU in Oakland, a little while later, Speaker 2: 04:47 Can we become a little world and be a place of peace and harmony Speaker 1: 04:55 Her mom, Sean Chira is a singer. And to Kira says during that time in ICU, Speaker 2: 05:00 She just likes sometime just saying, Speaker 1: 05:03 Especially during mom's long, overnight stays next to her daughter. Speaker 2: 05:07 It was like a little couch that lets out to a bed. Speaker 1: 05:10 Mom says these hospitalizations have been terrifying. Speaker 2: 05:14 I just remember crying a lot because I kept coming in in the room doing extra stuff to her. Speaker 1: 05:24 One thing you should know, black kids like to Kira are disproportionately affected by asthma. They're more likely to be hospitalized for it. And even to die from it, especially in low income neighborhoods like hers, where more black people live than anywhere else in Vallejo. That's because they're often more exposed to air pollution from industry and freeway cert. But dr. Bohm says also Speaker 3: 05:48 Discrimination, uh, poor housing, um, poverty, crime, negative aspects of neighborhoods, such Speaker 4: 05:58 As noise, garbage. Speaker 1: 05:59 Shh. So wildfire smoke he says Speaker 4: 06:02 Is likely to differentially impact kids in these neighborhoods. Speaker 1: 06:08 During every wildfire to cure. As mom says, she follows public health advice to keep windows and doors closed, but that only helps if they keep the smoke out. Marina Vista's oldest, apartment buildings were built about 50 years ago and about a half a dozen residents, including Sean Chira told me the smoke comes right in through the flimsy windows. It had a lot of Speaker 2: 06:30 Aluminum windows. I feel like we need double pane at windows or something. Speaker 1: 06:40 Last falls fires landed to cure up back in the hospital yet again, Speaker 4: 06:44 I'm ABC seven news meteorologist Mike Nico, welcome to our 18th consecutive spare. The air day, Alicia Speaker 1: 06:50 And these latest fires sparked by lightning in a ring around the entire Bay area have driven millions of people to shelter indoors about a week into the bad air days. I dropped by to check onto Kira and her mom. Sean Ciara says Speaker 2: 07:07 She's been stressed. Very, very, very worried. Speaker 1: 07:11 She's hopeful though that our daughter's drugs are helping Speaker 2: 07:14 The steroids that they have been given her, expanded her lungs. Maybe Speaker 1: 07:19 Still to be cautious. They've been taking refuge at Sean chair as moms in Contra Costa County, even though outside air quality, there has been lousy to her place that has better windows and doors. Speaker 2: 07:31 She lives in a two story. So it's like a lot more space for, and when you enter in her house, it's just pure clean, clean air. So yeah Speaker 1: 07:41 Has been part of to cure his life for years now, inhaling that tiny harmful particulate matter from wildfire smoke. That's just one of her many triggers, but it's joined the list of forces outside her control that cause her anxiety. I worry about Speaker 4: 07:57 A fire. It's a lot higher even today kind of stay worried about Speaker 1: 08:02 During my last visit to Cura is quiet. She says she feels fine, but a few minutes later when I'm sitting in my car, my phone rings it's Shaun Chira. She says to Kira just told her that her chest has been hurting at night. She's been keeping it to herself because she's worried about going back to the hospital for the California report. I'm Lee Romney in Vallejo.