West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project: Citizen Engagement to Measure and Improve Air Quality

Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon is being honored as a Champion of Change for her dedication to increasing public engagement in science and science literacy.

I co-founded, along with Brian Beveridge, the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), a resident-led, community-based environmental justice organization that has been a strong voice of reason in the West Oakland community over the last decade. Due to the significant truck traffic needed to move goods through the Port of Oakland, which is located in a high population area of West Oakland, outdoor air quality is very poor and has a significant impact on the overall health of community residents.  Using research and data collection as tools, WOEIP advocates for an improved quality of life, as it relates to public health, air quality, land-use and equity development. 

The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project studied a number of factors that have negative impacts on air quality in the community, such as the volume of trucks coming into the neighborhood and illegal dumping, and as a result, community members identified 17 high-priority items for further action.  Results were published in two Community Based Participatory Research reports, "Neighborhood Knowledge for Change" and "Reducing Diesel Pollution in West Oakland". WOEIP uses science research to help convince policymakers that environmental changes are needed to decrease diesel particulate pollution originating from the Port of Oakland.

More recently, WOEIP has partnered with Intel and Common Sense Science to collect air quality data using handheld devices designed by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley Intel Labs.  WOEIP is recruiting neighbors and youth into the ‘Personal Air Monitoring Project,’ a new study that uses these portable sensors to collect both GPS information and data on particulate matter (PM) in air.  By deploying these devices, WOEIP provides hands-on training to affected residents, allowing them to not only participate in problem-solving but also empowering the citizens to realize that they have ownership of the data. "Unlike elevated, rooftop stationary sensors, portable PM loggers record what residents breathe at ground level, near places (i.e. residential areas, schools, and parks) frequently traveled by the elderly and children."   WOEIP’s research results have captured national attention - Congresswoman Barbara Lee and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson visited WOEIP for a presentation on their preliminary results.

We are seeking funding to bring our air quality data-gathering process indoors. We want to engage our local schools in assessing air pollution inside school buildings and use that information to help reduce asthma triggers in the classroom. Our ultimate goal is to empower parents to address indoor air quality issues in the home by helping families understand the structural and behavioral factors that link outdoor and indoor air quality.

Margaret Gordon is Co-founder and Co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (EIP).

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