Nalleli Cobo was nine years old when she started experiencing headaches, nose bleeds, asthma attacks, and other ailments.

“I suffered a lot, health-wise,” she says.

Her symptoms coincided with a major increase in activity at an oil well across the street from her home in south-central L.A. Oil drilling uses toxic chemicals that can be hazardous to human health when breathed.

Other people in Cobo’s neighborhood were complaining of similar symptoms. So the community launched a campaign to stop what she says is a dire and preventable health hazard.

“We don’t need to rely on fossil fuels anymore. There’s no need to be drilling where we’re living,” she says.

In 2013, after three years of community pressure and growing scrutiny from public officials, the oil company shut down the site near Cobo’s home indefinitely.

Now Cobo is 20, and she’s helping push for a city-wide phase-out of all oil drilling.

“There’s so many people and so many wells that are in our area,” she says.

Nearly 600,000 people in Los Angeles County live within a quarter mile of an active oil or gas well.

So Cobo shares her story as she fights for a future in which all Los Angeles residents can breathe clean air. 

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media and Diana Madson