By Jamson S. Lwebuga-Mukasa
Pre-inspection will not improve air quality in Buffalo’s West Side. That is a fact, despite the rhetoric of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who subscribe to the flawed logic that speeding the flow of traffic by inspecting a percentage of trucks in Canada will fix the problem. They are wrong.
Whether truck inspections occur on U.S. or Canadian soil, prevailing winds continue to blow toxic diesel exhaust from Fort Erie across the Niagara River, and into the lungs of West Side children. Do these children not deserve the clean air you enjoy?
We have been told that new federal emissions standards will reduce pollution in the West Side. This is false.
A cloud of smoke trailing out of big rigs’ exhaust pipes contains billions of microscopic pollution particles. Only the largest of these toxic particles are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. West Side residents are being made sick by much smaller “ultrafine” particles.
According to my research at the University at Buffalo and internationally renowned experts from leading research institutions – the Harvard School of Public Health, Clarkson University, Columbia and University of Washington – ultrafine diesel exhaust particles are definitively linked from Peace Bridge truck traffic to the disproportionately high rates of asthma, cancer and other diseases among West Side residents.
Some argue that this research is “woefully out of date.” They contend that recent changes to EPA emissions standards have improved West Side air quality. However, ultrafine particles are not regulated by the EPA and remain as plentiful today as they were in 2011, when our research was published by the Health Effects Institute.
New York State officials, on the other hand, have attempted to invalidate this research by releasing an invalidated study of their own in October 2013. Their studies not only employed a flawed methodology, but failed to examine the alarmingly high concentrations of ultrafine particles in the West Side. The State Department of Environmental Conservation cannot study ultrafine particles because it does not have the necessary equipment.
Pre-inspection is not the answer to the West Side’s asthma epidemic, and no one should dare say otherwise. Each day, scores of West Side children are hospitalized for asthma complications. They will become another permanent generation of sick community residents. This will not stop until you, your family and your friends call upon local leaders to cut the rhetoric and produce a responsible solution based on scientific facts, not science fiction.
Jamson S. Lwebuga-Mukasa, M.D., is a pulmonologist, epidemiologist and founder, president and CEO of Respiratory & Environmental Exposure Consultants.