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Today PublicSource published an in-depth story about why the City of Pittsburgh’s Clean Air Act of 2010 hasn’t been implemented.


Pittsburgh City Council passed the law in 2011 requiring construction companies to retrofit a percentage of their diesel equipment to reduce harmful emissions if the equipment was being used on projects larger than $2.5 million that received at least $250,000 in public subsidies.


As reporter Emily DeMarco explains, diesel exhaust contains fine particles that can pass through the nose and throat and lodge themselves in the lungs, aggravating asthma and causing lung damage, as well as premature death. Last year, a group of experts from the World Health Organization classified diesel engine exhaust as more carcinogenic as secondhand cigarette smoke based in part on a large study that showed an increased risk of death from lung cancer in underground miners exposed to diesel exhaust.


Children, the elderly, those with heart and respiratory disease, and of course, construction workers, are most at risk. And when kids miss school because of asthma attacks, parents miss work to care for them. There are also more emergency room visits and higher insurance premiums.


But despite these compelling health and economic reasons to control diesel air pollution, regulations to implement the Pittsburgh ordinance still haven’t been finalized, making it unenforceable.


DeMarco quotes Rachel Filippini, executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP): “If we truly want to be the most livable city, we have to contend with our air pollution. And one way to do that is to clean up construction vehicles.”


GASP reports that emissions from construction vehicles make up nearly a quarter of our diesel pollution problem in the region. But the good news is that emissions controls called diesel particulate filters and the use of widely available ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel can help eliminate a significant amount of the fine particles released by heavy-duty trucks and construction equipment.


To allow small construction companies to comply with this law and remain competitive, the Allegheny County Health Department and The Heinz Endowments have established the Small Construction Contractors Retrofit Program to help cover the cost of the required equipment.


Click here to read more about the delay in Pittsburgh’s implementing clean construction law and how to make your voice heard for clean air.

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