The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is helping to reduce air pollution in and around the Port of San Juan, by providing the Polytechnic University in Hato Rey with $886,095 to install pollution reduction technology on 72 heavy-duty trucks and replace 10 old heavy-duty trucks with 2010 or newer less polluting models.
The university will also raise awareness about the environmental impacts of diesel air pollution through educational outreach, the EPA said in a release issued Monday.
Older diesel engines generate significant amounts of fine particles, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide, which are released into the air and can make people sick. The grant will help pay for clean diesel projects that will improve air quality in an urban area of Puerto Rico where asthma rates are high.
“Reducing air pollution from diesel engines helps decrease asthma attacks, respiratory problems, lost work days due to illness and premature death,” EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck said. “EPA’s support of clean diesel programs is eliminating tons of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides and is providing enormous health benefits.”
The particles in diesel exhaust can penetrate deep into the lungs and pose serious health risks, including increasing the risk of cancer and aggravating the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory problems. In addition, diesel exhaust contributes to already unhealthy levels of smog, which are formed when chemicals released by vehicles, power plants and industrial boilers react in sunlight.
Nationwide, diesel engines emit 7.3 million tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides and 333,000 tons of fine particles annually. While EPA’s standards significantly reduce emissions from newly manufactured engines, the clean diesel projects funded through these grants address older diesel engines that are still in use and continue to emit higher levels of harmful pollution.
Nationally, EPA has taken steps to ensure that the diesel engines manufactured now and in the future will be significantly cleaner than those operating today; however, diesel engines are very durable and older models will continue to be used and can pose health and environmental problems for decades. Repowering existing diesel engines with newer, cleaner engines is a relatively simple and cost effective way to reduce diesel pollution.
EPA’s efforts to reduce air pollution are ongoing. Last year, EPA announced tougher tailpipe emission standards for cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2012-2016, which will result in cleaner vehicles — ultimately requiring an average fuel economy standard of 35 mpg in 2016. This will result in increased fuel economy of five percent every year, reduce greenhouse gas pollution by nearly 950 million metric tons and save the average car buyer more than $3,000 in fuel costs.