Leaded Air Pollution: Let’s Clean It Up – Seriously
May 6, 2022
by Dr. Plastic Picker
It was a frustrating three hours on the virtual queue again yesterday to give public comment at the San Diego City Council budget meeting. Riley Gilbertson, one of our premedical advocacy interns, and I have been working on this leaded aviation fuel project for the last seven months. This is when we first heard about it from the Montgomery Gibbs Environmental Coalition. https://www.mgecsd.org/index.html
It’s a relatively simple problem. 1.4 metric tons of toxic lead is rained down on the clairemont area that surrounds the small private airport Montgomery Gibbs Executive Airport. Lead is a long known pediatric neurotoxin, and leads to population shifts in IQ and also a contributing factor to developmental delay namely ADHD and autism. At this specific airport, there is only leaded fuel available. An unleaded fuel tank would cost 200K. Many planes that use leaded fuel can be retrofitted to use unleaded, and it doesn’t cost that much. ADHD, autism, developmental delay and all the health effects of toxic lead costs millions of dollars and much more than 200K or the amount to retool an airplane. Anyway, everyone agrees this should happen but the political will and the urgency to get this done has not been there. That is until we heard about it, and I deployed a premedical intern onto the job.
Anyway, it’s been a super interesting project but I’m kind of feel it’s time for the city council to finish this and get the budget allocation confirmed. The Montgomery Gibbs Environmental Coalition has really been leading us, and I show up (usually with Riley) when I can to testify. It’s been Clairemont Town Council meeting, three city council meetings, San Diego Union Tribune op-ed, presentation at UCSD School of Medicine Health Equity Cluster, presentation at Pediatric Academic Societies, and then a presentation at WHO Inches conference. But yesterday was frustrating but hopefully the joint testimony was enough to remind. I was supposed to pick up my daughter at school, and the meeting virtually was running late – and right when I was heading home – I knew it would be my time to testify. But I had to pull over onto a small little cul-de-sac, ask my 14-year-old to “Raise Your Hand” when it was time and be patient with me as I tried to do this for San Diego’s children. I get that the politicians are doing their job. I get that things take time. I especially appreciate this District 7 city councilperson Raul Campillo who has been our champion on this matter. Oh, here’s a shot of our presentation we’ve been giving.
But I can still be frustrated. This is a simple matter that should have been resolved a decade ago. It hopefully will be now, and I’ve probably spent at least $5,000 of my own time (I know the worth of my time) helping Riley and myself prepping for these projects and 8 presentations. The time has been well worth it, but yesterday was just frustrating because I think they are tired of hearing from me. But I’m tired of having to say the same thing. But when good people are tired of something, usually things get done because we all want to move on to other things. And that’s what I told them yesterday. That I’d keep on showing up next year if this is not done, and it’s been seven months and us pushing this topic and amplifying the health effects of lead pollution on toddlers (and I emphasized toddlers yesterday) and really we wanted to move onto other environmental health topics.
But at least it happened during just an afternoon that I had to do pick up and not during her birthday. We were able to celebrate her birthday is peace. Gosh darn it, I want this project done so bad. We are almost there. At least I have good friends on the Montgomery Gibbs Environmental Coalition know. I’ve testified with them plenty of times.
I also need help restore our local wetlands and at the california state level, help ban flavors from vaping products. Giving myself credit on this blog, and reflecting that I’m enough today. I’m enough. You are enough. We are enough. We showed up! And I showed up eight times and spent $5000 of my own time/money trying to address toxic lead pollution! Cleaning the beach of plastic and the sky of lead!!!! Dr. Plastic Picker, your local litter-picking pediatrician!