DIESEL EXHAUST: State Panel Labels Major Cancer Risk
A state scientific panel said yesterday "that diesel exhaust poses a serious cancer danger and urged state environmental officials to take steps to protect public health," the Los Angeles Times reports. The panel "estimated that 14,850 Californians ... could eventually die of disease caused by diesel exhaust," and that diesel pollution "will cause 450 lung cancers among every 1 million people exposed." The Times notes that Los Angeles Basin residents have about 60% more exposure to diesel pollution "than the average level the scientists used to estimate the cancer risk."
Time To Move
The panel's chair, University of California-Los Angeles toxicologist John Froines, "called Wednesday's decision the 'most important' public health issue that the scientific panel has addressed since it was formed by the Legislature 15 years ago." He said, "If you believe these risk numbers at all, diesel has a significant impact on the health of Californians." The Times reports that the panel first recommended action against diesel in 1994, but, "under fire from industry groups," revised the report twice, "each time toning down the language in describing the cancer threat." Now, California "environmental officials must wrestle with how to reduce the hazards posed by diesel-powered vehicles, which are so commonplace that they transport virtually every product that Californians consume." Beau Biller of the California Trucking Association criticized the study's data for not calculating exhaust levels in the air people breathe "as they walk down the street." He said, "This is an advocacy document. This is not pure science. There really is no alternative to diesel right now." The California Air Resources Board must decide by summer "whether to act on the scientists' recommendations," which they "are expected to accept." The Air Resources Board does not plan to ban diesel, but instead to consider "tighter standards that would force more engine modifications and encourage use of natural gas and other alternatives" (Cone, 4/23).