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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Organized Collection and Public Health

In my ranking of the proposed goals for organized collection, I suggested that reducing diesel exhaust in our residential neighborhoods should be included among the environmental benefits we sought.

Diesel exhaust is bad for us. According to the EPA,
Acute exposure to diesel exhaust may cause irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, some neurological effects such as lightheadedness. Acute exposure may also elicit a cough or nausea as well as exacerbate asthma. Chronic exposure in experimental animal inhalation studies have shown a range of dose dependent lung inflammation and cellular changes in the lung and there are also diesel exhaust immunological effects. Based upon human and laboratory studies, there is considerable evidence that diesel exhaust is a likely carcinogen.

Anyone who has inhaled a lungful of diesel fumes from a truck accelerating in front of you on the highway surely has an intuitive sense of it being bad for the lungs. But the ultra-fine particulates in diesel are also linked to cardiovascular problems, including increased risk of heart attack and stroke. (Here's an example of one study: "Why Diesel Particulates Cause Cardiovascular Disease.")

Diesel vehicles are an essential part of our economy, and that's not going to change any time soon. But all else being equal, if we can reduce the number of large diesel trucks on our streets (especially our residential streets), that's a good thing. Multiple garbage trucks driving the very same pickup routes certainly qualify.

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