Cleaner fuels can address California pollution
Colwich, KS, August 17, 2016: In the wake of a new study blaming more than 2,000 premature deaths in Southern California on polluted air, the Urban Air Initiative (UAI) is once again calling for cleaner gasoline as an immediate means of protecting public health.
The study was published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, a peer-reviewed journal that concluded Southern California would benefit more than anywhere in the country if ozone and fine particulates were reduced. UAI President David VanderGriend said this new study only confirms what UAI’s research has shown in recent years. Densely populated urban areas are disproportionately impacted by pollution and petroleum based fuels are the primary culprit.
“While the poor air quality in California is well known, identifying fine particulates as a specific threat is something we can immediately address through cleaner transportation fuels,” said VanderGriend. “Even with strict California fuel regulations, tightening the standards and requiring clean octane would significantly reduce particulate emissions and other smog forming compounds.”
VanderGriend noted that UAI and other organizations it works with have repeatedly called on EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to recognize the threat of ultra fine particulates (UFPs), which are currently unregulated. The organizations fixate on PM10, which is primarily a power plant issue and PM 2.5, a diesel issue, when in fact gasoline is what produces the UFPs. It’s the toxic aromatic compounds added to gasoline to boost octane that creates the UFPs, and it will only get worse if more aromatics are added to meet higher octane requirements in the future.
While California has more automobiles and uses more gasoline than any state in the U.S., this is not a California-only phenomenon. In May of this year, a similar study by the Tufts University School of Medicine and Boston University School of Public Health came to the same conclusion regarding the negative health impacts linked to gasoline. The Boston study used mobile labs to analyze the health impact of microscopic pollution. It found that Boston residents who live or spend a significant amount of time near major highways have an increased exposure to microscopic metals and chemicals spewed from vehicles, which increases their chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
“How much more evidence do we need, to see that we are failing to adequately address the dangers posed from gasoline based emissions? Not only do we have numerous studies identifying premature deaths linked to near-roadway exhaust, but we also have mountains of studies that connect asthma, respiratory ailments, low birth weight, and even neurological issues with emissions from gasoline,” said VanderGriend.
A leading researcher on children’s health is also concerned about fossil fuel combustion. Dr. Federica Perera, the Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health recently discussed in Environmental Health Perspectives that fossil fuel combustion and associated air pollution and CO2 emissions are the root cause of much of the ill health of children today. She went on to state that “the single most important action we can take for our children is to cure our addiction to fossil fuel.”
With the transportation sector now the primary source of carbon emissions, UAI argues that the EPA simply must enforce carbon and toxic reduction laws already on the books. VanderGriend cited provisions in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments that require the EPA to reduce mobile source air toxics to the greatest extent possible. The EPA has acknowledged that ethanol is a legitimate substitute for the highly carbon intensive aromatic compounds currently used to increase octane, including benzene which is a known carcinogen. The Department of Energy released a study last week confirming that higher ethanol blends in the 25-40% range could provide the octane needed to help automakers achieve mileage requirements and most importantly, according to UAI, provide substantial health benefits as well.
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