I was very disappointed with the Redondo Beach Board of Education’s failure to take any meaningful stand against the rebuilding of the polluting and unnecessary AES power plant at their last public meeting. Once again the leaders we have elected to look out for our interests have demonstrated their limited understanding of the issues and appear to be concerned only with doing what is less confrontational.
While denial is always comfortable, political courage and action are our best tools for positive change. The hypocrisy of attempting to encourage healthy eating habits and develop young minds while refusing to take a stand against rebuilding a power plant that will significantly adversely effect the health and brain development of thousands of our students at a number of our schools in the path of the pollution cloud under the smoke stack of the AES power plant is striking.
A series of recent studies on children have all found a negative impact of air pollution on cognition (thinking ability). These findings are most dramatically associated with particulate pollution, which is expected to increase by a factor of at least 5 according to AES’s own filings. Boston University School of Public Health published a report in 2008 that followed children from birth through 10 years of age. They found that children exposed to greater levels of a certain type of particulate scored significantly worse on tests of memory, as well as both verbal and nonverbal intelligence. More recently, a study published this year by researchers from Columbia University followed children from birth to age 7 and found that children exposed to higher levels of urban air pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons while in utero were more likely to experience attention problems and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Similarly a study from the University of Michigan found that children exposed to the highest levels of pollution had the lowest attendance rates and a greater percentage of children who failed to meet state testing standards.
Studies in Mexico City, a notoriously polluted place, have found that the brains of dogs in the city had significantly more signs of brain deterioration (amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles both associated with Alzheimer’s disease in humans) compared to dogs outside of the city. MRI scans identified brain changes in children living in Mexico City, as well as lower scores on tests of memory, cognition, and intelligence. Is it our goal to become another Mexico City?
To argue that because there are other greater polluters out there (e.g., large numbers of cars and trucks) we should do nothing to stop a major unnecessary source of pollution is like saying we should not try to cure cancer because more people die from heart disease.
The failure of the majority of the school board to take at least the reasonable position that a power plant next to thousands of their students is a bad idea is unfathomable. Our children deserve better. Please vote YES on Measure A and NO to rebuilding the AES power plant.
Roger Light, Ph.D.
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