Diesel exhaust contains respiratory irritants, cancer-causing chemicals, more than 40 toxics and fine particulate matter (PM). Tiny particles in diesel pollution are inhaled deep in human lungs, where they can trigger asthma and heart attacks. Moreover, diesel exhaust is emitted at ground level - just where we breathe it in.
Citizens in Massachusetts face the 24th highest risk of premature death due to diesel soot, when compared to the lower 48 states. Diesel pollution can have a profound impact on public health and work attendance.
Monetized Value of Health Impacts (including death toll): $1.6 billion
Sources of diesel health risk include: school buses, transit buses, construction and agricultural equipment, long-haul trucks, locomotives, and marine vessels.
Because multiple sources are often concentrated in urban areas, increased exposure by people who live and/or work in cities puts them more at risk than rural residents. Although on average 6% of the day is spent commuting, 60% of daily exposure to harmful particles is during that time.
With support from federal diesel clean-up funds, The Commonwealth has initiated a variety of successful diesel emissions reduction programs: retrofitting several thousand school buses, hundreds of garbage and recycling trucks, and numerous state highway trucks; purchasing cleaner diesel hybrid trucks for municipal departments; re-powering public transportation bus fleets and locomotives; and electrifying the Massport Fishing Pier in South Boston.
Massachusetts has the highest health risk from diesel soot in New England. In Suffolk County, the risk of getting sick from diesel pollution is the third worst in the country and the lifetime cancer risk from diesel exhaust is 309 times higher than EPA's "acceptable" level.
Diesel pollution also contributes to climate change by storing the sun's heat and reducing the natural reflectivity of snow, ice and clouds. As a warming pollutant, black carbon soot in diesel pollution is about 2000 times more potent than CO2. Diesels account for over half of the US black carbon soot emissions. Retrofitting diesel engines to reduce emissions is one of the few fast and economical actions that will have immediate climate benefits, complementing long-term efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.
In 2007, federal standards required new diesel engines to be 90% cleaner than they are today.
These new standards only apply to NEW engines, which means pre-2007 diesels with yesterday's emission standards will be on Massachusetts' roads and job-sites for years to come.
We need to act now to clean up pollution from diesel engines in use today!
Emission control technologies combined with cleaner fuels can reduce deadly fine particle pollution from existing vehicles by up to 90%. Government and private institutional decision-makers, working together with advocacy groups, citizen activists, fleet owners and operators, can and should establish aggressive programs to dramatically reduce pollution from existing diesel engines.
Off-road construction vehicles & equipment remain a largely unchecked source of diesel emissions in MA, while emitting more pollution than diesel trucks and buses. Continued federal support will empower and enable state and local clean-up strategies, including anti-idling and retrofit programs for diesel vehicles & equipment used in publicly-funded construction projects. Cleaning up diesel pollution can be a win for health, a win for climate, and a win for jobs.