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March 5, 2012

NEW Diesel Health Risk Studies

Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 03:59:49 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

The DC Environmental Network (DCEN) has worked on diesel emission reduction strategies since it was started in 1996. Early in this decade, working with Councilmember’s Mendelson, Graham & Catania, DCEN helped increase momentum at Metro to convert some of the most aging dirty diesel buses to cleaner fuels. Over the years DCEN has advocated for tough idling laws and supported efforts to convert the District’s government vehicles to cleaner technologies. In 2009, working with representatives of the Clean Air Task Force, DCEN held a DC Council briefing to educate decision makers and staff about the dangerous health impacts of diesel pollution and suggested some strategies the District might take. We are currently advocating for a clean construction ordinance to protect workers and all District residents who come across pollution spewing tractors and other construction machinery.

The data in these new reports by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), is critical to understanding impacts to human health when we use diesel engines.

Released March 5, 2012:

PRESS STATEMENT from Conrad Schneider, Advocacy Director, Clean Air Task Force, on the release of two major studies of health risks from diesel pollution from National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

“Supporters of cleaning up pollution from millions of older diesel engines across the country just got a powerful boost with the release of two research papers from the Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):

– NCI press release- http://cancer.gov/newscenter/pressreleases/2012/DieselMinersPressRelease

– NCI Q&A – http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/pressreleases/2012/DieselMinersQandA

Industry groups fought in court for years to suppress both reports, but they have now been finally released to the public.

“The two studies, perhaps the most comprehensive ever to examine the public health risks of diesel pollution, looked at a group of 12,000 mining industry workers exposed to diesel carbon particles, and found an astonishing three-fold increased risk of both lung cancer and premature mortality among this study sample.

Furthermore, the researchers found that lifetime exposure to diesel exhaust in some U.S. urban areas with high levels of diesel carbon pollution could carry similar risks.

According to the study, particularly at risk are other workers besides miners who are continuously exposed to diesel exhaust, such as the 1.8 million heavy truck drivers and 460,000 heavy construction equipment operators in this country as estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008.

“These studies could not have been released at a more opportune time, as right now Congress is considering two programs that would support reductions of the deadly diesel emissions that threaten workers in these two occupations – truckers and construction workers.

“First, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), reauthorized almost unanimously by Congress in 2010, provides funding for grants and loans to diesel operators to reduce diesel emissions, but is woefully underfunded in the budget currently being considered by Congress.  Instead of the $100 million per year authorized by Congress, the Obama Administration has recommended only $15 million for DERA funding for FY2013, clearly inadequate given the enormous health risks posed by diesel pollution.

“Second, as early as this week, the Senate will move the next Transportation Bill forward, the current version of which includes ‘Clean Construction’ provisions requiring and funding the use of cleaner diesel equipment on federally-funded construction projects in areas of poor air quality.  The latest House version of the bill does not.

“Given what we now know about the lung cancer risks from long-term exposure to diesel emissions, Clean Air Task Force and the grass-roots Diesel Clean-Up Campaign call on Congress and the Administration to ensure that the “Clean Construction” provisions are included in the Transportation Bill, and to restore full funding for DERA.”

For more information on the impact of diesel emissions and the national effort to clean them up, please visit the Diesel Clean-Up Campaign website at www.dieselcleanup.org   For CATF’s diesel exposure studies that suggest commuters and children on school buses may be exposed to significantly elevated levels of diesel exhaust similar to those observed in some occupational settings, please see: www.catf.us/resources/publications/?project=3

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