Diesel engines emit a mixture of particles, metals and gasses including over 40 "hazardous air pollutants" as classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act. Diesel pollution can trigger asthma and cause lung cancer, stroke, and heart attack, contributing to 21,000 early deaths a year. Nationally, diesel exhaust poses a cancer risk that is 3 times greater than the combined risk of all air toxics assessed by EPA. Diesel exhaust is particularly dangerous because it is emitted at ground level - just where people breathe it in1 .
The diesel emissions from school buses, transit buses, construction and industrial equipment, trucks, locomotives, and marine vessels pose a serious public health threat. Because these kinds of sources are often concentrated in urban areas, people who live or work in cities face much greater risks from exposure. Diesel exhaust levels in urban areas cause a tripling of the cancer risk compared to suburban areas.
Diesel also accounts for more than half of the United States' "black carbon" emissions. Black carbon soot is approximately 2,000 times more potent as a global warming agent than an equal amount of carbon dioxide (CO2). The good news is that reducing black carbon is one of the few actions that will have immediate climate benefits, complementing long-term efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.
Although there are clean diesel regulations for new engines to be 90% cleaner than their older counterparts, there are 11 million old, dirty diesels in the U.S. that may be in use for decades to come. However, retrofits available today can reduce diesel particulate matter and black carbon emissions by at least 90%. Studies indicate that for every dollar spent on reducing particulate matter pollution from diesel engines, $12 would be avoided in monetized health damages. Additionally, a 2008 report estimates that $1 billion investment in clean diesel technology can create 19,000 new jobs2 .
Clean Water Action works with communities nationwide on solutions, including:
Clean Water Action is part of the Diesel Clean-Up Campaign, a nationwide collaboration of organizations committed to reducing diesel emissions 40 percent by the year 2012, 55 percent by 2015 and 70 percent by 2020. Achieving these goals will save tens of thousands of lives between now and 2030, improve health and well-being by reducing ailments such as heart and asthma attacks and curb global warming.
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2 KeyBridge Research (2008)