Port of Oakland truckers face dangerous pollution

Truck drivers who service the Port of Oakland are exposed to dangerously high levels of diesel fuel pollution, according to a study released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The small-scale study, entitled “Driving on Fumes: Truck Drivers Face Elevated Health Risks from Diesel Pollution,” focused on seven trucks running on diesel fuel that haul cargo for the Port of Oakland, according to Diane Bailey, a scientist for the study.

Air samples taken from inside the trucks found elevated levels of diesel fuel pollution, or diesel particulate matter, putting drivers at serious health risks, such as developing asthma or cancer, Bailey said.

“These soot levels are significantly higher than those previously found along truck corridors near the Port of Oakland and at Port of Oakland terminals, suggesting that diesel (particulate matter) may be accumulating inside truck cabs,” a summary of the study's findings states.

The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that the increased cancer risk should elicit action from the Port of Oakland, which Bailey said has not responded to requests for a meeting.

Port of Oakland spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur said that she has not seen the study, but the port has already been working to address air quality issues.

The port previously offered a truck exchange program with incentives for drivers who turned in old trucks, Sandifur said. Independently contracted truckers were asked to turn in old trucks that were emitting pollutants, she said.

Old trucks were scrapped, and a total of $3 million was given to truckers for new, cleaner trucks, she said.

The port also has several other air quality programs working to address the emissions of all the equipment used by the Port and Oakland International Airport, which is run by the Port of Oakland, according to Sandifur.

Working to improve air standards is a regular part of business at the Port of Oakland, Sandifur said.

Independently contracted truckers are still at a disadvantage, Bailey said, because financial concerns keep truckers from purchasing newer trucks that emit fewer pollutants, she said. Independent status also keeps the truckers uninsured, and illnesses related to pollution exposure might not be addressed, she said.

Study results indicate that trucks made before 1994, when air quality standards were established, should no longer be used, she said.

Trucks made after 1994 should be equipped with exhaust controls, although the Port should help with the cost of the devices, she added.

Bailey said that the Natural Resources Defense Council admits that the study released is small, but hopes that another air quality agency might take the topic up for a larger examination of the issue.

The full study can be seen at www.nrdc.org/news.

— Bay City News 

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