Study links diesel exhaust to truckers’ deaths

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The odds of dying from heart disease are nearly 50 percent higher for truck drivers than the general U.S. population, and diesel exhaust is a likely culprit, according to a Harvard University study of importance to transportation-heavy California, the Sacramento Bee reported this week.

The findings are part of the largest and most comprehensive study yet conducted on the effects of diesel engine emissions on trucking industry workers nationwide, from longhaul drivers to office clerks, engine mechanics and dockworkers exposed to exhaust in the yard, according to the newspaper.

Harvard Medical School researchers said they examined the jobs and medical histories of more than 54,000 male Teamsters union members who had worked for one of four national trucking companies from 1985 through 2000, the Bee reported.

Cynthia Garcia, a state air pollution scientist, told the newspaper the findings are important not only for transportation workers but also for people who commute in heavy diesel-fueled traffic or who live or work near truck terminals, ports and railroad yards.

The study led a recent agenda of the California Air Resources Board, the Bee reported; Garcia presented the research as further evidence on the risks of diesel exhaust and the need for cleaner-burning fuels and engines for diesel-powered vehicles and equipment generally.

According to the newspaper, Garcia cited a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study showing that diesel soot in the Bay Area has decreased nearly threefold in the past 40 years even as fuel consumption increased sixfold; the decline has been more pronounced for truckers and others who breathe diesel exhaust daily on the job.

“This reduction in