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Community Air Risk Evaluation (CARE) improves health by identifying sources of air pollution in California's Bay Area

Poor air quality can affect health in many ways, including aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death.1 Diesel particulate matter (DPM), part of the complex mixture that comprises exhaust from diesel engines, is one source of pollution that can negatively impact air quality.2 In California, DPM is identified as a toxic air contaminant based on its potential to cause health problems.3

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District) serves as a regional air pollution control agency, regulating stationary sources of air pollution in the 9 counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2004, the Air District launched the Community Air Risk Evaluation (CARE) program to identify the communities in the region most affected by air pollution and the populations most vulnerable to the health impacts of pollution.

The Air District identified the West Oakland community as one of the most impacted communities in the Bay Area due to its proximity to major freeways, the Port of Oakland, the Union Pacific rail yard, and the former Oakland Army Base. Diesel engines in trucks, marine vessels, and locomotives were the primary sources that contributed to West Oakland residents’ increased exposure to DPM. The Air District worked with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to assess the health impact of air pollution on West Oakland’s 22,000 residents. Through these studies, they found that residents of West Oakland had one of the highest rates of potential cancer risk in the Bay Area.4

The Air District also found that most of the health risks from exposure to DPM were due to trucks, including older trucks used to transport cargo to and from ports and intermodal rail yards (drayage trucks). Given the demonstrated impact of diesel emissions on health, in 2007 CARB adopted statewide regulations aimed at reducing drayage truck emissions by requiring trucks to be replaced or retrofitted to comply with more stringent emissions standards. The Air District deployed a team of local inspectors who helped enforce the state’s drayage truck rule at the Port of Oakland. Trucking companies and independent operators were offered grants for early compliance with the regulation, and the Port of Oakland assisted enforcement efforts by banning older engines from marine terminals. In addition, community members formed collaboratives to address diesel emissions locally by distributing flyers to idling trucks and providing advocacy tools. Between November 2009 and June 2010, the Air District found substantial reductions in exhaust emissions from trucks. After efforts to retrofit and replace trucks were implemented, there was an approximately 50% decrease in emissions factors for black carbon and about a 40% decrease in emission factors for nitrogen oxides, components of DPM that are connected to negative health outcomes. Identifying issues that put communities at risk for poor air quality and addressing these issues can help to address this Leading Health Indicator.


Date Posted:
Organization Name: Bay Area Air Quality Management District
Program Name: 

Community Air Risk Evaluation (CARE) Program

939 Ellis Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
United States
Healthy People 2020 Topic Area(s) addressed: 
Healthy People 2020 Objective(s) addressed: 
Healthy People 2020 overarching goal addressed: 
Attain high-quality, longer lives free of preventable disease, disability, injury, and premature death.
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