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E-M:/ EPA Report Tuesdsay: Diesel Exhaust Kills

A U.S. EPA emissions study released Tuesday and reported by the AP and ABC News links diesel exhaust with cancer in humans and should kill a plan to build the largest freight terminal of its kind that would bring16,000 diesel trucks into highly populated residential areas of Detroit and Dearborn.   But will it?

The EPA’s study said tests show strong evidence that diesel exhaust poses a health risk to humans.  "Overall, the evidence for a potential cancer hazard to humans resulting from chronic inhalation exposure to (diesel emissions) is persuasive," according to the  study. 

The Michigan Department of Transportation’s proposed Detroit intermodal Freight Terminal (DIFT), covering seven miles and 840 acres, would concentrate too much diesel exhaust into an area already hard hit by air pollution.  The Detroit City Council voted unanimously to reject the DIFT but MDOT put out a press release saying the project would continue.

The EPA report mirrors conclusions made previously in documents from various world health agencies and studies in California and is particularly significant because the EPA is the federal agency that regulates diesel emissions under the Clean Air Act.

The Bush Administration is considering a Clinton-era proposed rule that would significantly toughen emissions rules for diesel engines.  But even if the new rule were adopted, it would not apply to diesel engines on the road or manufactured today. 

The EPA report reiterated that environmental exposure to diesel exhausts poses "a chronic respiratory hazard to humans" in the long term including increased asthma and other respiratory problems. In some urban areas diesel exhausts account for as much as a quarter of the airborne microscopic soot, the report said.

As for cancer, the report noted occupational health studies and tests on animals that showed diesel emissions to be a carcinogen, a cancer-causing substance. While there remain uncertainties, the report continued, "it is reasonable to presume that the hazard extends to environmental exposure levels" as well.

"The overall evidence for potential human health effects of diesel exhausts is persuasive," the report said.

For the Associated Press report of the EPA study go to: