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The diesel trucks, trains, ships, and equipment used to move goods around the state emit numerous pollutants. Diesel exhaust is a major source of both diesel particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollution. In all, diesel exhaust can containan estimated 450 different chemicals, 40 of which are listed by the California Environmental Protection Agency as toxic air contaminants that are dangerous to health even at extremely low levels. There is no level at which these pollutants are considered safe.

Diesel exhaust is associated with a long list of health problems. These include early death (from effects on the cardiopulmonary system, lung cancer, and infant mortality), respiratory problems (including asthma and bronchitis), heart attacks, and reduced birth weight and premature birth. Of all air pollutants, diesel exhaust poses the greatest cancer risk to Californians. The South Coast Air Quality Management District estimates that 70% of all airborne cancer risk comes from breathing diesel exhaust. Each year in California, freight transport causes 2,400 people to die prematurely; 2,830 people to be admitted to the hospital; 360,000 missed workdays; and 1,100,000 missed days of school. Many studies have shown that diesel exhaust can irritate the nose, sinuses, throat, and eyes; damage the respiratory system; and potentially cause or aggravate allergies. Diesel exhaust leads to inflammation of the airways that may cause or worsen asthma and increase the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. Children are at particular risk from air pollution.

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Unless otherwise notes, for citations for the above information, see Paying With Our Health: The Real Cost of Freight Transportation in California.
For additional information about the health effects of diesel, see http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/diesel/diesel-health.htm
and http://oehha.ca.gov/public_info/facts/dieselfacts.html.

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Health, Environmental Justice, Labor, Other Community Impacts,
The Community Speaks Out

“When I read that 70% of the airborne cancer risk in the state of California comes from diesel pollution, the first image that comes to mind is my memory of my aunt who passed from lung cancer. I find her story in those numbers and this inspires me to continue working with communities affected by diesel pollution in the Bay Area. In my work with the Diesel Collaborative I look for ways to remind those with the power to reduce this pollution that each of those numbers is a human life.”

-  Catalina G., Pacific Institute