As California’s toxic Salton Sea shrinks, it’s raising health alarms for the surrounding community

California’s Salton City The 4-year-old Damien Lopez has symptoms that are common among residents of the Salton Sea area of Southern California.

He starts to cough pretty quickly. His mother, Michelle Lopez, said, “I try to keep him under control.

“Control” frequently entails dropping by Pioneers Memorial Hospital to see pediatric nurse Christina Galindo.

Galindo told CBS News, “I can see up to 25 to 30 patients a day, and maybe half of those are battling with respiratory ailments.

According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control, a 2019 study from the University of Southern California found that between 20% and 22% of children in the area have symptoms similar to asthma, which is slightly more than triple the national rate for asthma. The study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The Salton Sea itself is to blame for the high frequency of asthma among those who live nearby, according to a university study lead by Dr. David Lo, a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of California, Riverside. It was discovered that the toxins in the sea may be contributing to lung irritation in nearby occupants.

Early in the 20th century, a dam burst, flooding the Imperial Valley with water from the Colorado River. This caused the Salton Sea to form. According to Lo, who spoke with CBS News, its main source now is adjacent farm runoff, which contains fertilizer, heavy metals, and pollutants like arsenic and selenium.

This hazardous mixture lingered on the ocean floor for many years. However, the Salton Sea is fast shrinking in the absence of water replenishment from the Colorado River, exposing a poisonous and dry lakebed to the wind.

It is also drawing a new sector that wants to harvest lithium, a chemical that is present in the lakebed.

“California is going to need every bit of lithium they can get if they want to electrify every vehicle by 2035,” said Frank Ruiz, director of California Audubon’s Salton Sea program and a board member for the Lithium Valley Commission, a state agency that regulates lithium mining in the area.

Ruiz stated, “We don’t fully comprehend the implications of the lithium industry. No industry is completely immune to environmental effects.

Ruiz declared, “This is a toxic, toxic dust,” adding that he hoped the Salton Sea region’s residents wouldn’t have to sacrifice their health for what may otherwise be a financial gain.

Taxes and revenue may be used to continue paying for this poisonous playa, according to Ruiz.

Lopez hopes that her family won’t be forgotten.

Some people are worried that one day they’ll be told, “You have to leave your house because you can’t live in here any longer,” Lopez said.

 

 

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