“Diesel exhaust is among the substances that may pose the greatest risk to the U.S. population.” That’s the latest statement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who recently released their updated National Toxics Assessment (NATA). The quote also encompasses the message that we and other members of the Diesel Clean-Up Campaign from around the country shared with legislators in Washington last week.
Although there are clean diesel regulations for new engines, there are 11 million old, dirty diesel engines in the U.S. that may be in use for decades to come. Retrofits are available today that can nearly eliminate diesel particulate matter and black carbon emissions from these engines.
Fine particle pollution produced by diesel engines causes 21,000 deaths a year, according to a 2005 report by the Clean Air Task Force entitled, Diesel and Health in America: The Lingering Threat. Diesel engines emit a toxic mixture of particles, metals, and gases, including over 40 classified as “hazardous air pollutants” by the EPA. The cancer risk posed by diesel exhaust in the U.S. is three times higher than that from all other air toxics tracked by EPA combined. Premature death, lung cancer, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, respiratory distress and lost days from school and work have all been tied to diesel pollution. Reducing this risk is a win for everyone.
The Diesel Clean-Up Campaign is working across the country on local, state and federal initiatives to reduce this significant health burden. Deaths from diesel exhaust exceed other high-profile causes of death in the U.S. including firearm homicides, HIV/AIDS, and drunk driving.
One of EPA’s most important and cost-effective programs for reducing this significant health threat--the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA)–which was signed into law and reauthorized in January for another five years, is on the chopping block. It is anyone’s guess as to why public health is being treated by our leaders as a political issue; but OUR health should NOT be further jeopardized. First and foremost, Congress needs to get their act together and prevent a shutdown TODAY so we can address these vital issues. See more about attacks to the Clean Air Act here.
During our trip to Washington, we, along with our partners Mothers & Other for Clean Air and local pediatrician Dr. Yolanda Whyte, met with more than nine members of the Southeast congressional delegation in order to share stories of DERA’s success and value to our region. You see, demand and need for diesel emissions reduction is high. EPA receives $5 in applications for every $1 appropriated for DERA awards. In a