Traffic backs up on Interstate 80 at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) strike snarls the morning commute on October 21, 2013 in Oakland, California.

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Researchers Measure Dangerous Black Carbon In Oakland

Jeffrey Schaub
July 25, 2019 - 4:38 pm

UC Berkeley and U.S. Department of Energy researchers have teamed up to develop a new way to track black carbon, better known as soot, in and around West Oakland.

That neighborhood endures a lot of black carbon emitted from diesel trucks at the Port of Oakland as well as vehicles from the nearby highways that lead to and from the Bay Bridge. 

Experts say black carbon is a major contributor to climate change and cause an array of health problems. 

“Long-term exposure can lead [to> or exacerbate the development of cardiovascular disease. There’s some indication it might exacerbate asthma,” Tom Kirchstetter, division director of the Energy Analysis and Environmental Impact  Division at Berkeley Lab said. 

Kirchstetter and other researchers teamed up to create the largest black carbon monitoring network in the world with 100 sensors placed around West Oakland for 100 days. 

“We found that concentrations of soot varied over large scales over short distances and short times,” he said. “For example, one person’s exposure outside of their house might be two times higher than somebody else’s just a few blocks away.”

Kirchstetter said that largely depends on traffic patterns, which tend to be highest on weekdays. Not surprisingly, he says they’re lowest on weekends when there’s less traffic at the Port of Oakland. 

Researchers found the farther people lived away from the port and highways, the lower the concentration of black carbon.