Diesel exhaust consists of the black smoke that we see, as well as invisible particulate matter (PM). Particulate matter, especially particles of 2.5 microns or smaller, has been linked to such health problems as asthma attacks and asthma onset, coughing and breathing difficulty, chronic bronchitis, decreased lung function, heart attacks, stroke, and premature death. Children, the elderly, and people with existing respiratory ailments are especially sensitive to particulate matter.
Diesel exhaust poses a serious risk to Allegheny County residents’ health. Diesel exhaust shortens the lives of hundreds of Pittsburghers each year, and triggers hundreds of heart attacks and thousands of asthma attacks. Diesel exhaust was recently pinpointed as the leading inhalation cancer risk in Pittsburgh.
To tackle this problem, GASP has lead the Allegheny County Partnership to Reduce Diesel Pollution, together with Clean Water Action. This campaign’s goal is to reduce toxic diesel pollution from all diesel vehicles, including school buses, transit buses, garbage trucks, construction vehicles, locomotives, and marine vessels operating in Allegheny County.
Currently GASP and other environmental groups are addressing illegal idling by school buses. A 2014 survey of many local schools found illegal idling happening throughout the region. The mandated “No Idling” signs were also absent at many locations. GASP worked with Pittsburgh Public Schools to ensure signs are available for all of their schools, and they should all be up by the 2014-2015 school year. GASP is also delivering signs to all parochial, charter, and private schools in the district. Please talk to your school personnel if you see idling for more than 5 minutes per 60 minute period (15 minutes if students are on board). Contact us as well if the problem persists!
Find out more about:
Allegheny County’s Off-Road/Construction Idling Regulation
City of Pittsburgh Waste Haulers
Clean Construction Legislation
Cleaning up school buses
Pennsylvania’s Diesel-Powered Motor Vehicle Idling Act
There are many options for reducing diesel exhaust that GASP advocates for in our community:
- Installation of retrofits, such as diesel particulate filters (DPFs) and diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs)
- Requiring ultra low sulfur diesel fuel or cleaner alternative fuels
- Installation of closed crankcase ventilation systems, especially for school and transit buses
- Engine rebuild and replacement
- Truck stop electrification programs
- Requiring cleanup of trucks and construction equipment used in public works projects
The Allegheny County Health Department and PA Department of Environmental Protection should include diesel cleanup measures as federally-enforceable requirements in our State Implementation Plan for the attainment of fine particle and ozone air quality standards. Allegheny County and many of the counties adjacent to us have been designated in non-attainment for fine particulates. Reaching attainment will require a unique strategy that addresses both local and regional stationary sources as well as mobile sources.