In Compton, industrial facilities are located on the same blocks as homes, schools, businesses, hospitals and senior centers.
That's a red flag for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is concerned that certain metal processors in Compton could be emitting excessive levels of the carcinogen hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6.
The agency will soon begin monitoring for chromium 6 emissions in Compton. At a town hall meeting Thursday, the agency is slated to announce which chromium plating and anodizing plants in the Compton area it will monitor.
Compton is the first target of the AQMD's new initiative assessing toxic emissions from hundreds of metal processing facilities across the region. The agency selected the South Los Angeles city due to its clustering of metal facilities that perform operations that could emit too much chromium six near sensitive sites.
"Each and every one of these facilities is close to either homes or schools," says air district spokesman Sam Atwood. He has previously said the agency will begin by monitoring two sites, but he declined to say how many sites the district will ultimately monitor.
The monitoring results could help explain some residents' health problems, says Martha Camacho-Rodriguez, a teacher at Dominguez High School in Compton. She says she has heard kids and parents complain about asthma, rashes and dry nasal passages.
Up until now, there's been little environmental activism in Compton, says Ricardo Padilla Reyes, who lived much of his life in the city. He chalks that up to poverty and crime in the city.
"People here are basically not going to take up arms when they're so concerned about just putting food on the table and paying for their rent," he says.
The AQMD's regional monitoring initiative grew out of its work in nearby Paramount. In the course of investigating elevated levels of chromium 6 there, the air district learned that metal processing facilities can be significant sources of the carcinogen.
The agency eventually reached agreements with two Paramount metal processors that require them to shut down their chromium-related operations if their emissions exceed a certain level.
If the monitoring reveals that any facilities are releasing unsafe levels of chromium six, the agency says it will take steps to force them to rapidly reduce their emissions.
Thursday's community meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Dollarhide Community Center in Compton.