To Stand up and Reap the Benefits

I was right to desire my anonymity during my campaign, as the method for curbing my efforts came in a letter of retaliation from the property manager at The Arbors a week before Christmas and then a Cease and Desist letter from the lawyers representing the Carmel Partners was to follow a week before the meeting contracted by the US EPA. I was lucky in that the Sacramento News & Review published a wonderful article about our plight in the beginning of January called Left fuming. And I had made some influential contacts along the way to give me much needed advice and guidance. In addition, Senator Darrell Steinberg’s office was instrumental in helping me to invite the appropriate influencers to the upcoming meeting.

Despite the possibility of an impending lawsuit on charges of defamation, amongst other threats eluded to in the Cease and Desist letter, I managed to organize enough volunteers to have a flyer placed on every door at The Arbors as well as many of the homes in the surrounding area. I was too close to being able to share my story and ask for a change to the alternative roofing method to give up.

On January 28th 2009, we held the public meeting that included a representative from the following organizations or agencies: The Sacramento Air Quality Management District (AQMD), The US Environmental Protection Agency and TASC’s E2 Engineer, Senator Darrell Steinberg’s office, The California Air Resources Board (CARB), The American Lung Association, Legal Services of Northern California, and the Arbors Management. Residents were also present. This meeting was reported on two local news stations: Channel 3’s My 58, and channel 13 at 10 PM that evening.

During this meeting, I stood up and asked the property managers again to switch to the alternative, safer roofing method, but they did not respond. However, a meeting between the Air Quality District, my Senator’s office, and the corporate owners of the property was scheduled for a few weeks later.

I found out the good news in April of 2009, just as I was finishing my Master’s thesis, that a decision was made by the Carmel Partners to exclude asphalt roofing tar as an option when re-roofing began again in the future. Just this week, my heart began to pitter patter again as I spied the roofers driving through my neighborhood again. The next day, I found them tucked away in a back street re-roofing another home, only this time it was not tar, there were no fumes and the method of choice was the one I had suggested all along, the TPO “cool” roof.

When I drove away, looking at this clean looking modern roof, with the memories of the hard work that led to this moment fresh in my mind, I became so emotional. I felt like I had come full circle, that I had made a difference and felt a sense of accomplishment that made it all worthwhile. Not that I don’t think about how lucky we are everyday, when I open my windows, or walk Elise to school, because I do and always will be grateful for clean air. I will never take that for granted the rest of my life.

My understanding is that if the owners are pleased with the product this will be the chosen method as work begins again next spring.

My reason for sharing this with all of your readers is that we should always advocate for our health and the health of our community, but especially the health of our children. As Mark Miller MD, MPH, the Director of the UCSF Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit said in a letter of endorsement for my campaign “whatever ill health effects one might expect [due to the ongoing roofing project] would more than likely be disproportionately shouldered by the children of the community”.

And also, I am so grateful to the Sacramento Metro Air Quality District for all that they did to move this in the right direction.

I want to give a big thanks to all of my supporters and advisors, who without their help I could have been completely lost as to how to succeed.

Last but not least, I also want to thank the Carmel Partners for stepping up and changing their roofing method for the betterment of all of their residents, especially the children, the elderly, and those with special health needs that were affected most by being home during the peak work hours for the roofers.

Finally, there are changes that need to be made within our system that makes the health of our Nation at a higher precedence than the progress afforded by allowing toxins in our environment. We are smart; we are worthy of the best. Regardless of your status in society or how much money you have, if you think a product is unsafe say so, and try to get others to listen. Be kind to your future selves and to the future of our Nation’s children. Thank you.

Shelby Rodriguez

Shelby Rodriguez is the winner of the Healthy Child Healthy World’s Mom on a Mission Award in October, 2009.In the future she plans to continue working on creating legal restrictions on the use of asphalt roofing tar in residential areas and on or near schools.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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