Chatham Students Use GASPer to Monitor for Diesel

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Hotline, Winter 2003

by Rachel Filippini, GASPer Program Coordinator

Recently, a group of Chatham College students, under the direction of their professor and GASP Advisory Board Member, Mary Kostalos, utilized the GASPer Air Monitor to do some monitoring of diesel emissions in Pittsburgh’s East End. The students were brought together as part of the Campuses in Communities grant project. The purpose of the program is to foster cooperation between academic institutions and local agencies and organizations, giving students hands-on, real world experience that supplements and enhances classroom learning. GASP was happy to assist these students with their worthwhile project. The students also worked in cooperation with the East End Neighborhood Forum and the Pittsburgh Transportation Equity Project.

The students chose to monitor at four locations, targeting areas where local businesses, schools and hospitals meet with busways. The four sites chosen were: the Martin Luther King Jr. Busway; a Port Authority Transit (PAT) bus garage located at Dahlem Place and E. Liberty Blvd.; the front of the Hillman Cancer Center; and the corner of Centre Ave. and Negley Ave., near Giant Eagle. The students targeted the East End to show the effects of the disproportionate amount of diesel-fueled buses that travel through this area as compared to, for instance, the South Hills of Allegheny County, served more by light rail transit. In their report, they highlighted the demographics of the East End, the compounds found in diesel emissions, the health effects of diesel, differences in transportation based on socioeconomic status, and best practices found in other states in regard to diesel.

The Chatham students measured for CO, NO2, SO2 and ozone. Their SO2 and NO2 findings were significantly higher than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), especially near the entrance to the PAT bus garage. Elevated levels of SO2 contribute to a variety of respiratory ailments. Chronic, long-term, low-level exposure to SO2 is a contributing factor leading to bronchitis, lung cancer and labored breathing. NO2 also contributes to respiratory illnesses, especially in people who are already vulnerable due to asthma, bronchitis or lung disease.

GASP plans to engage in more diesel monitoring, including particulate monitoring, in communities in the East End of Pittsburgh and in other locations throughout the county. If you, your school, or community group, etc., is interested in using the GASPer Air Monitor equipment for diesel or other kinds of air quality monitoring, please contact Rachel Filippini at (412) 441-6650 or gasp@gasp-pgh.org.