The Clean Water Blog

The Invisible Epidemic: How Diesel Pollution is Suffocating American Families

Clean Water Action co-leads the Coalition for Healthy Ports NY/NJ and has joined the national Moving Forward Network urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to address global climate change caused by diesel emissions at our ports, warehouses, and highways across the country. Together, our goal is to gather hundreds of thousands of signatures to demand #ZeroEmissionsNow - sign the petition here.

Deadly Diesel Impacts Us All

Infant mortality, asthma, heart disease, lung and bladder cancer, and neurological disorders are just a few symptoms associated with exposure to diesel emissions. Nationally, more people are killed every year by diesel emissions than gun homicides or drunken driving accidents.

In New Jersey, 68,000 people are treated for asthma attacks and 1,000 premature deaths occur every year due to this lethal pollutant. Families that live by busy diesel truck corridors and port communities are often hit the hardest. However, diesel pollution is emitted and breathed by people throughout the region, especially daily commuters and those who live, work and play near our busy major roadways. 

Port Authority Break Promise to New Jersey Families

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently reneged on their promise to ban pre-2007 diesel trucks from entry to the port by 2017 which would have reduced emissions by 90%, according to Amy Goldsmith, New Jersey Director of Clean Water Action and chair of the Coalition for Healthy Ports. Now, only 1994 and '95  models will be prohibited starting January of 2018,  leaving 8, 901 diesel spewing port trucks congesting highways and lungs around the state.

Goldsmith reports, “one pre- 2007 truck is equal to 60 new trucks in terms of diesel emissions.” Although zero emission technologies exist and have been utilized effectively in Southern California ports, New Jersey families are still gasping for clean air and a solution.

Local Lives Matter

Kim Gaddy, environmental justice organizer for Clean Water Action and fourth generation Newarker, recently discussed how diesel emissions have impacted her family and community on WBGO radio. The City of Newark is located next to third largest port in the northeast where 1 in 4 children have asthma.

"All three of my children are asthmatic and I've lost two family members to asthma," said Gaddy. " With an asthma attack, you are helpless. We have had incidents where students playing football or baseball fall out on the playing field and die from an asthma or chronic heart attack. We are living in a death zone, it’s a silent killer and we don’t have the choice not to breathe.”

Gaddy says that diesel pollution is a problem "we just can't escape" and urged the Port Authority of NY & NJ to follow the example of the Southern California ports to ban all 2007 and older diesel trucks still on the road.

"The Port Authority of NY & NJ does not respect the health of Newarkers and decided that because of money we are not going to follow through with this plan,"said Gaddy. "So now my life and my children's life are in danger. They are putting a price on their head to say our lives are not good enough to save because we just can't afford to remove these older trucks. I think this is an injustice to all the residents. The Port Authority is being a bad neighbor."

The Solution to Pollution - How To Fix a Silent Epidemic    

The solution to pollution is education and action. In addition to organizing for Clean Water Action and the Coalition for Healthy Ports, Gaddy is a member of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection's (NJDEP) Environmental Justice Advisory Council, founding member of the NJ Environmental Justice Alliance, and New Jersey President of the International Black Women's Congress.

“We all need to learn about the harms of diesel pollution and reach out to decision-makers to stress the importance of reducing deadly diesel emissions," said Gaddy. "Everyone should sign the petition and encourage elected officials and your friends, families and coworkers to do the same. It's the only way we'll fix this silent epidemic."

Everyone deserves the right to breathe air free from poison. Please sign the #ZeroEmissions petition now and let's stop suffocating our families.

“Our lives have value - that message needs resonate throughout the country," said Gaddy.