El Marino students exercise next to the 405 freeway. Amy Walters / Reveal
Interstate 405 is one of the nation’s busiest highways, with more than 300,000 vehicles speeding, crawling, or outright stopped each day on the 10 lanes cutting through this Los Angeles suburb. Yards away sits an elementary school, where students and teachers breathe air tainted by all those tailpipes.
Parents at El Marino Language School understood the health risks and were determined to do something. Five years ago, they organized. They cleaned the soot that settled on their children’s desks. They brought in pollution-trapping plants. They pressed for high-grade air filters, taking their own air measurements, trooping into school board meetings to make their case and, finally, last summer getting what they’d asked for. “It took an army,” said parent Rania Sabty-Daily.