The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Los Angeles Ports:
More Pollution

Oct 24, 2022

Air pollution at the two ports of Los Angeles increased by huge amounts during the Covid pandemic, according to a report released by port officials.

Nitrogen oxides, an indicator of smog, rose by 54% at the Port of Los Angeles, and by 35% at the neighboring Port of Long Beach, from 2020 to 2021. Sulfur oxides, which damage lungs, increased by 145% and 38%, respectively. Particles spewed by diesel engines, which cause cancer, went up by 56% at the L.A. port, and by 42% at the Long Beach port.

In other words, as the coronavirus took thousands of lives in the Los Angeles area, additional lives were being lost to increased air pollution. And like the victims of the virus, the victims of the pollution were working-class families—families that live near the ports and inhale the poisonous air, because they can’t afford to move to healthier neighborhoods.

The increase in pollution is not a surprise. Like companies in other sectors, companies operating at the ports reduced their work force at the beginning of the pandemic. But when, in 2021, transportation picked up again, the shortage of workers caused a big logjam at the ports. In November 2021, 114 ships were sitting off L.A.’s two ports, spewing pollution into the air, because there were not enough workers at the ports to unload the ships, and not enough workers at the warehouses and distribution centers where the unloaded goods go.

Already before the pandemic, the pollution was so bad near the ports that doctors had dubbed the surrounding communities “diesel death zones,” and now the pollution is even deadlier. It’s a result of the capitalist system, which is set up so as to make workers pay for the big companies’ endless greed for more profit. In this case with their lives.