February 19th, 2018
How dirty is San Francisco? An NBC Bay Area Investigation reveals a dangerous mix of drug needles, garbage, and feces throughout downtown San Francisco. The Investigative Unit surveyed 153 blocks of the city â€“ the more than 20-mile stretch includes popular tourist spots like Union Square and major hotel chains. The area â€“ bordered by Van Ness Avenue, Market Street, Post Street and Grant Avenue â€“ is also home to City Hall, schools, playgrounds, and a police station.
â€œIf you do get stuck with these disposed needles you can get HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, and a variety of other viral diseases,â€� said Dr. Lee Riley, an infectious disease expert at University of California, Berkeley. He warned that once fecal matter dries, it can become airborne, releasing potentially dangerous viruses, such as the rotavirus. â€œIf you happen to inhale that, it can also go into your intestine,â€� he said. The results can prove fatal, especially in children.
Riley has researched conditions across the poorest slums of the world. His book titled, â€œSlum Health,â€� examines health problems that are created by extreme poverty.
Based on the findings of the Investigative Unit survey, Riley believes parts of the city may be even dirtier than slums in some developing countries.
â€œThe contamination is â€¦ much greater than communities in Brazil or Kenya or India,â€� he said. He notes that in those countries, slum dwellings are often long-term homes for families and so there is an attempt to make the surroundings more livable. Homeless communities in San Francisco, however, are often kicked out from one part of town and forced to relocate to another. The result is extreme contamination, according to Riley.
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