SACRAMENTO – Last week, Senator Steve Padilla (D-San Diego) held a community roundtable discussion to discuss the negative health impacts the Salton Sea has had on families and children living in the region. The discussion included members of the community from local food banks, school districts, advocacy groups, as well as concerned parents.
“These are the voices of people who live the reality around the Salton Sea every day,” said Senator Padilla. “I heard from parents with children struggling with asthma due to breathing in toxic air from the Sea. Their frustrations and their voices are the most important piece of the conversation. So many of our discussions about the recovery of the Sea focus on policy, but don’t lift up those who watch their families struggle to breathe. We need to center our attention on what is best for them, not some abstract political entity.”
Climate change-fueled drought accelerated the rate the Sea has shrunk, rapidly exposing lakebed-containing elements such as arsenic and selenium. The dust from these dry areas then becomes airborne, spreading those toxins throughout the surrounding communities. As a result, the region now suffers from some of the worst air quality in the country.
In Imperial County, the rate of asthma-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations for children ages 0–17 years is double that of the rest of the state. Parents at the discussion shared their personal accounts with Senator Padilla – stories of their children being diagnosed with asthma, but normal treatment failing to alleviate symptoms.
Senator Padilla is author of SB 583, which would create the Salton Sea Conservancy, tasking it with coordinating management of all conservation projects in the region to restore the shrinking sea, and reducing the negative health impact the Sea imposes.
“A conservancy is a potent tool we can use to emphasize the challenges these communities face,” said Senator Padilla. “It is important that I hear from these families directly. For them, this crisis is ever-present. This crisis is quite literally the air they breathe. It is vital the state listens and learns from their stories”
Steve Padilla represents the 18th Senate District, which includes the communities of Chula Vista, the Coachella Valley, Imperial Beach, the Imperial Valley, National City, and San Diego. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2022, Senator Padilla was the first person of color ever elected to city office in Chula Vista, the first Latino Mayor, and the first openly LGBT person to serve or be elected to city office. Website of Senator Steve Padilla: sd18.senate.ca.gov/