“Once you’ve been poisoned, you never get over it,” Podue said. But, he added, “you can’t chase away the work.” A crane operator, he said he would love to see all the port equipment “plugged in and green.”
“We all have a story to tell,” he told Birnbaum and the other officials. “Just don’t forget the workers when you’re doing it.”
Birnbaum said the debate has to move beyond jobs versus health. It’s obvious, she said, that the ports and freeways are economically necessary but they have to be designed and equipped to protect the community’s health. Rather than just calculating the cost of cleaner technologies, she said, communities should calculate the cost savings from avoiding illnesses.
“You’ve got to put a dollar figure on how much money you’d save by not having kids with asthma and people with heart attacks,” she said. “You have to turn it around and say how much money is saved by doing it the right way.”
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.