Trucks, buses and even river barges can create lots of diesel pollution. But a new study finds that just how much of that pollution you might be exposed to depends a lot on where you are and the time of day.
The Allegheny County Health Department enlisted Jane Clougherty, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health, to study concentrations of these pollutants in downtown Pittsburgh. For two years, Clougherty and her team monitored a variety of diesel pollutants in numerous locations, and they found some big differences from place to place.
“That really was a surprise, that there was such a substantial difference from block to block to block within the downtown area in Pittsburgh—and certainly a big difference from the middle of the downtown core, toward the outside along the rivers,” Clougherty says.
As one might expect, pollution levels were highest during rush hour—though season didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Clougherty would expect similar results in other urban areas.
She says the Port Authority in Pittsburgh is replacing all the older diesel buses with cleaner burning ones by 2019, which should reduce pollution downtown. Her results can also be used to plan better traffic patterns, which could keep buses from idling and creating hot spots for diesel pollution.
Diesel pollution is linked to respiratory and cardiovascular illness, as well as cancer.