Issue 382 September 9, 2002
EPA Study Supports Diesel-Lung Cancer Link

Environmental Protection Agency issued a study last week that confirmed that long-term exposure to diesel exhaust causes lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses, while short-term exposure causes irritation and exacerbates existing conditions.

After decades of research, agency scientists found evidence of the cancer-diesel link in tests of emissions on animals and human occupational exposure.

The studyís findings mirror results found in previous research, including studies done in California.  Research published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association also linked exposure to particulate matter in diesel exhaust to lung cancer (MTR #356).The fact that this study comes from the EPA, however, is significant in terms of national policy, since the agency sets Clean Air Act standards.  Diesel emission reduction deadlines set by the Clinton administration would cut emissions of particulate matter by 90 percent and nitrogen oxides by 95 percent, beginning in 2007.

Although the Bush administration has expressed support for the emissions reduction mandate, it has recently expressed interest in a market-based emissions reduction plan.  Under that system, a cap would be set for the total emissions of on- and off-road diesel sources, and diesel polluters could bargain for off-sets. The scheme could significantly reduce incentives for truck and bus manufacturers to produce cleaner-running vehicles.

In our region, several transit operations are leading by example.  Long Island Bus and the NYC DOT franchise bus system are the only transit operators actively pursuing a non-diesel fleet.  The entire LI Bus system is likely to be running on CNG by early 2004.The fate of the NYC DOT CNG bus program is unclear, given Bloomberg administration budget cutting priorities and the mayorís desire to hand city-supervised bus lines to NYC Transit.

MTR #382 portable document format (PDF) file version
(requires Adobe Acrobat).

Related Articles and Links

Full Study from the EPA

Amid New Cancer Evidence, NJ Transit Reneges on Public Health Pledge (March 11, 2002)

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