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Estella Lopez's Case Study

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The trouble with her breathing began a few months after Estella Lopez moved to Barrio Logan. Lopez is certain she knows why: “At five or six in the morning, you start hearing heavy noise. Like machinery working together. Like heavy metal banging.” Lopez lives on Main Street in an affordable-housing complex. She is 37 but looks older. She speaks very little English and answers questions with the help of an interpreter.

“One of the things is, I can never open the windows in the apartment, because my children are constantly sick. The little one, if we don’t take care of her, she is going to develop asthma.” Lopez’s six-year-old daughter shows signs of being in the disease’s early stages. “The doctor gave us a breathing machine for her. That’s why the windows are shut, so she can breathe clean air.”

Lopez and her 13-year-old daughter take pills as a part of barrio living. She roots through her handbag and produces a small bottle filled with tablets. “Loratadine,” it says on the label, a drug which is commonly used to treat allergies. “The 13-year-old is allergic to the dust in the air,” she says. “And I am allergic to things like smoke in the air. The smoke that comes from the trucks and the contamination they are creating.”
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She says they used to pay closer to $1000 for a one-bedroom apartment up on Ocean View Boulevard in Southeast. Does she consider the nearly 50 percent cut in rent a decent trade for the reduced quality of life she describes? “No. It’s definitely not a good trade-off. We are not a high-income family.” Together, she and her live-in boyfriend bring home less than $20 per hour before taxes. “Our financial situation,” she says, “made us do what we had to
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