New study shows opportunity to address health inequities in EJ communities
What’s good for the earth is often good for its human occupants, too. That’s the message from Clean Fuels Alliance America as it releases the results of Phase 2 of a groundbreaking study on the air-quality benefits of biodiesel—especially in the context of underserved Environmental Justice communities.
The latest study from Trinity Consultants, conducted on 15 high-risk air-quality communities coast-to-coast, reinforces that switching to biodiesel results in substantial health benefits. Specifically, the benefits include decreased cancer risk, fewer premature deaths, reduced asthma attacks and fewer lost workdays. B100 can achieve these benefits by reducing pollution in applications among the hardest to decarbonize—heavy-duty transportation and residential heating.
Antoine M. Thompson, executive director of the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition, knows all too well that the pollution of air, land and water are environmental injustices that often shorten the life expectancy in communities of color, including Washington, D.C. A former New York state representative and former head of the oldest organization of Black real-estate professionals in the U.S., Thompson is a nationally recognized leader for Environmental Justice, green business, housing, diversity and urban policy.
“If we are committed to addressing environmental inequities, we should embrace using every drop of biodiesel we can, right now,” Thompson said. “Decades ago, highways were built directly through many communities of color, and those neighborhoods continue to suffer higher rates of asthma and other illnesses today. As we finally begin to reckon with the social and economic consequences of inequitable air-quality treatment, the good news is we have the power to change things for the better immediately, as this study shows.”
The Trinity study found that replacing diesel fuel with biodiesel in Washington, D.C., alone could reduce the symptoms of asthma (such as needing to use an inhaler) by nearly 13,000 incidents per year. It also found that annual lost workdays could be reduced by almost 5,700, representing close to $1.5 million in economic activity. Overall, the economic benefit of improved health in the Washington, D.C., area would total over $262 million each year.
Combining Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the study, researchers found that switching to 100 percent biodiesel in the 28 transportation and home heating oil sectors studied would provide immediate community health improvements that include the following:
More than 456,000 fewer/reduced asthma cases per year
More than 142,000 fewer sick days per year
Cancer cases reduced by more than 9,400 (over a 70-year timeframe)
The prevention of more than 910 premature deaths per year
More than $7.5 billion in avoided health costs annually
A 45 percent reduction in cancer risk when legacy heavy-duty trucks such as older semis use B100, and an 86 percent reduced risk when biodiesel is used for home heating oil, known as Bioheat® fuel
The study used standard EPA air dispersion modeling tools, along with well-established health-risk assessments and benefit valuations, to calculate the public health benefits and resulting economic savings of switching from petroleum diesel to 100 percent biodiesel (B100) in transportation and heating uses. Expanding on Phase 1, completed last year, the report focused on communities in Phoenix; Las Vegas; Houston; Detroit; Minneapolis/St. Paul; Chicago; St. Louis; Indianapolis; Cleveland/Akron/Canton, Ohio; Boston; Buffalo, New York; Port of Elizabeth, New York/New Jersey; Charlotte, North Carolina; Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.
The majority of the sites are named in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report as among the “most polluted cities.”
"Powerful change often starts at the local level, and we hope this report captures the attention of those who are committed to providing clean air for all,” said Donnell Rehagen, CEO of Clean Fuels Alliance America. “Although we’ve seen a decrease in diesel particulate matter overall thanks to improving technologies, a large gap remains between EJ and non-EJ communities. The time to act is now. Biodiesel and renewable diesel can make a difference in quality of life today—not waiting decades into the future.”
Since the numbers represent findings from just 28 communities, they show just a fraction of the potential for positive impact, Rehagen added.
Sponsored by Clean Fuels, the study was conducted by Trinity Consultants, a company with more than 40 years of experience conducting air-dispersion modeling and related health-risk assessments. The two-phase study was supported by the Nebraska Soybean Board, South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, California Advanced Biofuels Alliance, Iowa Soybean Association, Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, Illinois Soybean Association, Ohio Soybean Council, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, Pennsylvania Soybean Board, New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association, Eastern Region Soybean Board and New Jersey Soybean Board.