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Friday, February 25, 2005

The Diesel Opportunity

This week it has been warm and dry in the Inland NW, and air quality is poor. Add this to the lowered environmnetal standards fostered by the current White House agenda, and there's trouble. Pollen starts blooming now and mold will certainly increase in the water logged California counties beseiged by heavy rain.

There is a reason to be able to breathe clean air.


The deadly effects of breathing diesel fumes came into sharp focus this week when the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) released a report[1]estimating that diesel fumes kill about 21,000 U.S. citizens each year.

Furthermore, diesel fumes cause 27,000 nonfatal heart attacks and 410,000 asthma attacks in U.S. adults each year, plus roughly 12,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, 15,000 hospital admissions, 2.4 million lost-work days, and 14 million restricted activity days.

And that is almost certainly not the worst of it. The Clean Air Task Force report cites numerous studies revealing that diesel soot
** degrades the immune system (the system that protects us all from bacteria, viruses and cancers)

** interferes with our hormones, reducing sperm production, masculinizing female rats, altering the development of baby rats(changing their bones, thymus, and nervous systems), modifying their adrenal and reproductive hormones

** causes serious, permanent impairment of the nervous system in diesel-exposed railroad workers

** induces allergic reactions, not limited to asthma, causing children to miss thousands upon thousands of school-days -- a primary cause of school dropout, consequent low self-esteem, and subsequent life-failure.

The new report is based on the most recent available data from the federal EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) combined with EPA risk models, with calculations carried out by Abt Associates, a consulting firm that frequently performs contract studies for the EPA.[2]

The key findings of the report should come as no surprise. The dangers of breathing diesel fumes have been known for at least two decades. More than 20 years ago, numerous researchers confirmed and reconfirmed that they could cause lung cancer in laboratory animals breathing air laced with diesel fumes.

To anyone taking a precautionary approach, this confirmed knowledge of diesel's ill effects on animals would have jump-started a search for alternative ways to power on-road and off-road machines, to phase out diesel in an orderly step-wise fashion.

But the National Academy of Sciences did not take a precautionary approach. The New York Times reported Dec. 23, 1981, that the Academy acknowledged that diesel soot is known to contain suspected cancer-causing substances. But the Academy said, "no convincing epidemiological evidence exists" that there is "a connection between diesel fumes and human cancer." In other words, let's not act on the animal evidence -- let's hunker down and wait until we can line up the dead humans. This is the risk-based approach to public health. It is the opposite of a precautionary approach.

Twenty years ago, in the spring of 1985, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a scientific report about the dangers of diesel fumes in New York. The New York Times reported May 18, 1985: "Diesel emissions are probably the single most important air-quality threat in New York City today," said Eric A. Goldstein, a lawyer for the environmental group and an author of the report. "But city, state and Federal agencies have not yet mounted a broad-based counterattack." The Times reported then that a spokesperson for the New York State Environmental Conservation Department acknowledged that diesel fumes cause lung cancer in humans but, he said, the state was "not yet sure" how big the problem was. The state had no plan for dealing with diesel because "we have not identified the extent of the problem," he said.

This is a classic example of the risk-based approach. Ignore the evidence so long as it is not 100% airtight. Use uncertainty as an excuse to delay. Wait for the dead bodies to pile up, then slowly acknowledge the need for action.

By 1985, there was no doubt that dead bodies were piling up. But the exact number of corpses remained uncertain, so the risk-based approach allowed "business as usual" to continue.

From a precautionary perspective, knowing that a technology causes lung cancer, and knowing that hundreds of millions of people are exposed to it, just naturally kicks off a search for less-harmful alternatives. But no one in 1985 was taking a precautionary approach.

In 1988 the federal government's Robert A. Taft Laboratory inCincinnati published NIOSH report 88-116, officially confirming that exposure to diesel fumes causes lung cancer in humans.

Read more by clicking on the link above

See an earlier post on this BLOG abount ionising particulate matter adhering to lung tissue from cellular EMF/ELF


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