Citing serious health problems associated with pollutants in Oakland’s air and across the Bay Area, several volunteers will hit the streets Tuesday seeking to curb what they say is a serious contributor to the problem: truck idling.

“In 2005, children living in West Oakland were five times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma and four times more likely to have an emergency department visit for asthma than children in California overall,” said Jessica Henn of Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative, which organized the Anti-Idling Day of Action.

In West Oakland, volunteers will pursue truck drivers face to face at the Mayway Warehouse truck parking facility on 12th Street, at the truck scales on Maritime Boulevard, and by the recycling centers in the Clawson neighborhood.

Henn said their goal is to be educational rather than aggressive.

A 2003 report by The Pacific Institute found that some West Oakland residents “are exposed to roughly five times more diesel particulates than residents in other parts of Oakland. West Oakland residents may have an increased risk of one extra cancer per 1,000 residents due to diesel particulate exposure over a lifetime.” Another Pacific Institute report found an average of 6,300 truck trips per day coming in and out of the Port of Oakland resulted in a total of 4,700 hours per day total idling or creeping.
Henn said that “at the Port though there are no unions and not really many big employers,” so the collaborative members are focusing on the face-to-face meetings with individual drivers.

A report released in March by the California Air Resources Board found that diesel emissions from heavy duty trucks are the largest contributors to potential cancer risk levels in the West Oakland community.” In addition to the health risks, Henn said the volunteers will be reminding drivers that idling is both expensive (because of rising gas prices) and illegal.

CARB declared diesel exhaust a toxic air contaminant in 1998.

“If someone calls the 1-800-END-SMOG number and reports an idling vehicle, a letter gets sent to the owner of the idling vehicle as a warning and the letter requests that the owner send something back (to CARB) telling them what they’re going to do to correct the problem,” Henn wrote in an e-mail.

Volunteers also will cover parts of Richmond, San Leandro, and the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco.

For the full story, go to the Oakland Tribune.