California Department of Public Health logo: three likenesses of people colored blue, green, and orange  
Last Edited: 3/19/2009

Border Region

Finalized in 1853 and totaling 1,969 miles (3,169 Kilometers) the U.S./Mexico border runs from San Diego, California and Tijuana, Baja California in the west, to Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Tamaulipas in the east. The 140-mile stretch along the California and Baja California region, characterized by rugged chaparral and forested mountains and deep agricultural valleys, has become a focus of environmental issues over the last decades. The signing of the Border Industrial Program in 1965 reduced tariffs and trade barriers for foreign-owned facilities in Mexico exporting goods into the United States. This stimulated a rapid buildup of large industrial finishing plants (maquiladoras) in Mexicali and Tijuana. The population near the border has grown rapidly because of the need for a large workforce for the maquiladoras. The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993 further prompted maquiladora and population growth.

This rapid industrial and population growth has created poor environmental health conditions for the residents on both sides of the California/Baja California border, specifically in the Imperial Valley region, where air and water quality have been significantly affected.  Imperial County has historically had the highest rates of asthma hospitalization among children in California.  Elevated ozone readings and air particulate matter levels, due in part to increased cross-border traffic, have also impacted this region greatly. The increase in industrial, pesticide, and raw sewage runoff has polluted the New River, a cross-boundary waterway, to levels that endanger public health. 

To address these public health issues, the Environmental Health Investigations Branch has conducted studies and health education activities over the last decades, centered on pesticide use surveillance and biomonitoring, environmental monitoring, public health consultation, asthma and birth outcome surveillance, and geographic information system development.

Border GIS & LANDSAT project Childhood asthma New River, Imperial County - Public Health Activities New River, Imperial County - Public Health Activities Pesticide use Border Asthma and Allergies Study (BASTA), Imperial County Urinary Pesticide Metabolites Study Soil sampling at schools New River, Imperial County - Public Health Activities Border GIS Agricultural Burning in Imperial County: Recommendations to Reduce Exposures

Border region timeline



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