SoCal City Ranks Worst in Nation for Cancer Risk

Cerritos scores 34 times higher than national average

Residents in Cerritos may want to rethink their current locale.

The city's 53,240 residents face the greatest risk of developing cancer from breathing toxic air, according to a new report released Wednesday.

The study, the National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment, is used by the Environmental Protection Agency to identify areas where residents could face the greatest health threats from air pollution, USA Today reported:

Almost 2.2 million people lived in neighborhoods where pollution raised the risk of developing cancer to levels the government generally considers to be unacceptable. There, toxic chemicals were significant enough that people who breathed the air throughout their lives faced an extra 100-in-1 million risk of getting cancer.

Many of those people -- about 847,000 -- lived in New York City. The worst single neighborhood lay between two freeways in Cerritos, Calif., outside Los Angeles. There, the EPA estimated an excess cancer risk of more than 1,200 in 1 million, 34 times the national average.

Three of California counties are in the nation's top 50: Orange County ranks 14th, Los Angeles County ranks 16th, and San Francisco County ranks 31st.

The EPA considered air pollutants from local industries, cars and trucks, as well other background pollutants from a variety of sources. The study is based on 2002 emissions, the most recent compilation.

The agency's results are based on an assumption that people would be exposed to the specific concentration of pollutants over 70 years. The pollutants would pose an excess cancer risk beyond the cases that would normally occur in an unexposed population.

And just to be fair, it's not all bad news from the fine city of Cerritos. Here are some highlights from the 2009 State of the City:

  • Cerritos Library's Children's Area was named the Best Library for Children by "Los Angeles" magazine in the Best of LA issue
  • Vintage Cerritos affordable senior housing project recognized with an Outstanding Achievement Award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors
  • The city's float in the 2009 Tournament of Roses Parade won the Grand Marshal’s Trophy
  • Cerritos Sculpture Garden received the Southern California Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award
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