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Health Study Targets SB County Rail Yard

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The San Bernardino rail yard is a major trade hub. It's also a source of pollution, and a potential health risk to the surrounding community.

For more than a century locomotives have passed through low-income communities surrounding the San Bernardino rail yard delivering goods to the Inland Empire and points east. The rail yard is one of the busiest facilities of its kind in California.

South Coast Air Quality Management District and Loma Linda University have teamed up in a new effort to find out just how much of a health problem it is.

Researchers from Loma Linda University plan to examine the health of people living near the sprawling Burlington North Santa Fe railroad yard. The study comes two years after the California Air Resources Board determined that diesel emissions from locomotives, big rigs and other equipment at the facility posed a significant health risk to thousands of residents living near the site, and that the facility posed the greatest cancer risk of any rail yard in California.

The door-to-door survey will try to determine if any link can be drawn between the yard and local cases of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

Researchers are hoping to determine if there is a higher asthma and fatal cancer rate in the surrounding community.

Researchers will also test lung capacity among especially vulnerable residents like children and elderly people who live nearby.

Loma Linda University professor Susanne Montgomery says the study will focus on three concentric zones around the Burlington rail yard – which include a pair of elementary schools. “Because that’s where you assume and the signs suggest the risk is highest," says Montgomery. “So we are able to compare degrees of exposure to the rail yard and the pollution that is in this specific area.”

Burlington railroad officials say they continue to take steps to reduce diesel emissions at the San Bernardino yard. The Loma Linda University study is expected to be completed in about two years.