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Bill Aims for a Cleaner, Healthier Commute

June 26, 2007

It's not just an eyesore and a bad smell. Diesel exhaust is harmful to your health, and a new bill aims to make your morning and afternoon commute healthier by filtering dirty vehicles.

A State House hearing Monday was the first step for new legislation that would filter diesel vehicles, aiming to cut those harmful emissions by 90 percent. Diesel smoke can cause health problems including asthma, and an increased risk of heart attacks and lung cancer. Bruce Hill, from the Clean Air Task Force, measured diesel pollution levels in different cities including Boston for a report earlier this year. He says any commuter could be at risk.

“No matter how you commute, whether you take a bus, a train, you walk, or you take the harbor ferry, levels were multiple times the particles in the outdoor air.”

A lower-sulfur fuel introduced in October is what makes this new filter technology possible. The MBTA has retrofitted or replaced most of its bus fleet for cleaner emissions. Three other states have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to cleaning up vehicles, and opponents say the cost is too high.

Danielle Connor, from Clean Water Action, testified in support of the bill. She thinks the diesel filters would eventually pay for themselves.

“It's just a giant burden on our health care system, so if we actually get to the root, and fix the exhaust and lessen the pollution, we're going to see immediate relief in terms of health care costs.”

Hill's report is online at www.catf.us/publications/reports/No_Escape_from_Diesel_Exhaust.pdf.

Kevin Clay/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MA