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EPA Presents $30,000 Grant to City of Philadelphia to Help Spearhead a Voluntary Diesel Retrofit Program - Reducing Diesel Emissions Will Result in Significant Health Improvements

Release Date: 10/25/2002
Contact Information: Donna Heron, (215) 814-5113

Donna Heron, (215) 814-5113

PHILADELPHIA – Most of us have had the experience of sitting in our cars behind a diesel truck or bus while it spews out black, sooty smoke. Beyond hastily scrambling to shut off our car’s air intake knob, there’s not much we can do.

Our instincts are right in trying to avoid breathing in the sooty smoke because it is not healthy. Diesel exhaust contains toxic chemicals and tiny particles – so small that several thousand of them could fit in the period at the end of this sentence. The fine particles are a serious public health problem because they can pass through the nose and throat and become lodged in the lungs. People with existing heart or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory problems are most sensitive to the health effects of the fine particles – especially children and older adults.

Diesel exhaust is a problem throughout the country especially in larger cities. And Philadelphia is no exception. With the help of EPA’s $30,000 grant, Philadelphia’s Air Management Services will start to address this problem.

“Today’s grant will be used to establish a stakeholder process to create a voluntary diesel retrofit program in Philadelphia,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh. “The process brings together organizations from throughout the city to examine ways to make changes to their existing engines in an effort to get cleaner air sooner rather than later. Cleaner air and healthy families are goals that we all share.”

Philadelphia’s Air Management Services will use the grant money to develop an educational outreach program and to bring together all the key players – public, private and school bus companies, local petroleum refineries, producers of diesel retrofit technologies, and environmental organizations – to discuss opportunities in reducing air pollution from diesel engines.

Two new EPA regulations will significantly reduce pollution from brand-new diesel engines. The first set of emissions standards for diesel will take effect in 2004. A second set of regulations aimed at reducing sulphur levels will begin in 2007.

However, because these rules will not take effect immediately, EPA has developed the Voluntary Diesel Retrofit Program to help make a difference immediately. EPA is partnering with state and local agencies to retrofit older, dirtier, engines to make them run cleaner and to develop programs to reduce emissions from idling engines.

Under the Voluntary Diesel Retrofit Program, owners and operators of diesel vehicles are encouraged to control pollution in advance of the 2007 requirements where possible.