Inside the First Long Beach Toxic Tour

Nov. 29, 2012 / By

By VoiceWaves Guest Youth Reporter Kaitlyn Smith

The noxious smell of diesel began to fill my nose as the bus for the first Toxic Tour departed for our two-hour journey through Long Beach. I coughed silently to myself.

I looked around, and the other community members on board seemed to have the same reaction. Little did we know, this was probably the most pleasant smell we would be encountering during the rest of our trip through our city’s most polluted– and just plain toxic– areas.

While tours like this one on Nov. 18 have occurred in other cities in Southern California, Toxic Tour is the first program of its kind to hit Long Beach. The facilitators, working through EndOil, decided to bring a tour to the city to create an educational experience that explores the landscape of Long Beach and informs about the many health and safety hazards that are encountered by the residents of the most heavily polluted areas.

During the tour, it was explained that the 710 Freeway has the highest number of truck trips in California, and the living conditions near the freeway posed many horrible health threats, such as asthma, premature birth, low birth rate, heart disease, and obesity.

Have you ever been driving along the coast at night and peered outside your window to see beautiful, lighted islands off of the Long Beach coastline? As it turns out, the THUMS Islands, as they are called, is pure façade. The islands hide oil-drilling rigs that produce 115,000 tons of pollution a year.

Beginning and ending at The Villages at Cabrillo, the tour bus drove passed the 710 freeway, Health Disparities, Autobody Shops, Thums Islands, Shoreline Drive, Cesar Chavez Elementary School, Port Overview, Pier S, SERRF, Oil Drilling Rig, Conoco Phillips, Alameda Corridor, Tesoro Refinery, and Terminal Island Freeway.

The Toxic Tour tour guides informed the group of these facts, and much, much more as we cruised through the dirtiest, poorest, and most polluted parts of our great city. They argued that health was no longer determined by your genetic makeup, it was determined by your zip code.

Do you know all about pollution in Long Beach? Check out the photo slideshow above and join the next Toxic Tour to see for yourself. For more information, go to

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VoiceWaves is a Long Beach youth-led journalism and media-training project. The youth, ages 16-24, are learning to report, write, and create digital journalism content. Their reports will raise awareness of community health issues and activate change.