On Tuesday, I was listening to the radio as usual when a story about retrofitting or replacing trucks to reduce diesel exhaust in California came across the airwaves. I thought you might be interested in the discussion that followed.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) wants to reduce the particulate matter coming out of diesel truck exhaust pipes. New trucks already carry filters which remove it, but older trucks would have to be retrofitted or replaced, at a cost to the owners. No one disputes that there are costs for truckers and trucking company owners. The question is whether that cost is worth it to improve air quality and health.
The guests on the show were Joe Rajkovacz of the California Construction Trucking Association, and Melissa Lin Perrella, senior attorney of the Southern California Air Project.
Mr. Rajkovacz contended that the new regulations would cost the trucking industry $10 billion dollars, a figure which Ms. Perrella disputed, although she did agree that there would be costs involved in improving or replacing trucks.
Mr. Rajkovacz claimed that most of those costs would fall on small trucking companies and Ms. Perrella countered with her opinion that his number was inflated, and that small companies can get help to retrofit their fleets.
Mr. Rajkovic’s main argument, however, was the cost-benefit analysis, and there we must disagree with him. How do you really count the suffering of a child with asthma, the premature death of a man with lung cancer, against the cost of bringing business equipment into the 21st Century? He even tried to claim that Diesel Exhaust isn’t really that bad, or truckers would be sick and they’re not. Doesn’t sound like a peer-reviewed study to me.
In fact, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) says:
“Diesel exhaust and many individual substances contained in it (including arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde and nickel) have the potential to contribute to mutations in cells that can lead to cancer. In fact, long-term exposure to diesel exhaust particles poses the highest cancer risk of any toxic air contaminant evaluated by OEHHA. ARB estimates that about 70 percent of the cancer risk that the average Californian faces from breathing toxic air pollutants stems from diesel exhaust particles.”
Recently we reported on the Environmental Protection Agency’s reclassification of Diesel Exhaust into the same category as Asbestos and other carcinogens that none of us would allow freely released into the air anywhere near residential neighborhoods or on our freeways. If Diesel Exhaust is that dangerous–and it is–any cost of reducing its presence in our environment is vastly outweighed by the benefits received in health and lifespan.
Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek and our parent company, Alliance Environmental Group, which offers residential and commercial cleaning, pest control, demolition, structural pasteurization and many other enviromental challenges. She can hear the freeway from her back yard.