Refinery blamed for asthma in housing project

The Associated Press
Tuesday December 04, 2001



RODEO — Children living in a public housing project near a refinery in this Bay Area community suffer from a high rate of asthma and allergies, and an environmental group says the plant may be to blame. 

At least one child has asthma or allergies in half the families in the Bayo Vista housing project south of the Phillips 66 refinery, according to a survey released Monday by Communities for a Better Environment, a pollution watchdog group. 

“The numbers people are reporting should raise questions and prompt further investigation,” said Rachel Morello Frosch, a San Francisco State public health researcher who helped design the survey. “It indicates valid community concern about the health effects of refinery emissions and air pollution in Bayo Vista.” 

The watchdog group found 62 percent of the families surveyed connected their children’s health problems to community environmental conditions. Forty percent had a child taking asthma medication. 

Bayo Vista project residents ages 12 to 17 went door-to-door to conduct the survey last year. They were members of a Communities for a Better Environment youth group. 

Nearly 80 of the 242 households in Bayo Vista answered the survey. 

Many factors can trigger asthma, including dust, mold and air pollution. Children living in low-income areas typically experience a higher rate of asthma cases, health officials said. 

“Asthma can’t be blamed on one source,” said Phillips 66 spokeswoman Mary Jen Beach, noting that the survey does not prove the refinery caused asthma, allergies or rashes. “It could be the combination of several things.”