Toxic Tour Blog: Inside West Oakland’s ‘Breathmobile’

By Kwan Booth
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Part of the Bay Area Toxic Tour
Talking to Dr. Washington Burns the other day I learned some pretty shocking information: 37 percent of the adults and 20 percent of the kids living in West Oakland have asthma and children living in this community are seven times more likely to be hospitalized for breathing related illness than any other children in California. And Alameda County as a whole is no prize, with one of the highest overall hospitalization rates among 5-17 year old youth. I learned this bit of info while sitting inside the Breathmobile, the new mobile asthma testing facility run by the Prescott Joseph Center, where Dr. Burns is executive director. And while the numbers are shocking on the first mention, it’s something West Oakland residents have been battling for a years. For the last 14 years the Prescott Joseph Center has been somewhat of an oasis for west Oakland residents seeking information on a variety of health and wellness issues.

Port’s Diesel Pollution Stirs West Oakland Protest

By Kwan Booth (article) and Kim Komenich (photography, audio)
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Part One in a Series

West Oakland’s struggles over diesel pollution linked to high local rates of asthma and cancer brought a confrontational protest to a recent Port of Oakland meeting — the latest in a year-long clash between residents, port officials and the trucking industry. Heads turned and presentations stopped mid sentence as approximately 50 community activists and union truck drivers stormed the meeting early on, equipped with protest signs, a bullhorn and calls for “good jobs, clean air.” “Protesters interrupt May 2 Port of Oakland meeting”
At issue is the proposed Comprehensive Truck Management Program, which would require new pollution controls for trucks serving the port. Although the protesters said the plan wouldn’t be effective, many independent truckers said it would put them out of business due to added costs for pollution controls. Emotions ran high, and one truck-company owner who attempted to speak was repeatedly shouted down by protesters.