Starting in January battery-operated monitors will be strapped to telephone and light poles in downtown Pittsburgh to measure diesel pollution. The Allegheny County Board of Health has approved spending $860,000 for the three year study to be conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Jim Thompson, the county Health Department's Air Program Manager, said the goal is to determine when and where diesel emissions are the highest. "Our efforts have been somewhat scattered," said Thompson. "We've been focusing on various different sources such as school buses, tugboats and trains in various parts of the county. What we hope this study will do is focus our work so we can best deploy our assets."
This study is a follow-up to research conducted three years ago by Carnegie Mellon that found surprising results. "We were expecting to see that industrial pollution was going to be the problem," said Thompson. "But what in fact we found, was that exposure to diesel particulate pollution, especially in the downtown area, was the number one health effect in terms of air pollution."
According to Thompson, diesel particulate pollution is linked to lung cancer and other respiratory ailments including increased cases of asthma.
The study will be paid for by the county's Clean Air Fund which comes from fines against companies for air pollution violations.