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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2005

 

Contact: Karen Hershey
Alescia Marie Teel
(609) 984-1795

 

CLEAN AIR COUNCIL REPORT CALLS FOR ACTION ON HARMFUL AIR POLLUTION IMPACTING PUBLIC HEALTH AND THE ECONOMY

(05/100) TRENTON -- The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that the Clean Air Council issued its annual report recommending actions to improve air quality in New Jersey. The report indicates that unfiltered diesel exhaust is a significant source of harmful air pollution adversely impacting the health of residents and increasing health care costs.

In its report, the Council highlights that diesel-powered engines, such as those found in trucks and school buses, are responsible for a significant amount of the particulate air pollution in New Jersey, especially in areas of high traffic and large populations such as urban areas. DEP supports legislation passed last month, which requires the use of air pollution control technology to reduce particulate emissions from school buses, transit, buses, garbage trucks as well as publicly owned on-road and non-road vehicles.

"This report validates the economic and public health importance of our initiative to reduce soot emission," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "All New Jersey residents will play a role on this issue when our soot reduction initiative is presented to voters as a public question."

The adverse health effects caused by air pollution continues to be disproportionately higher in communities of color and low-income communities. These communities are often located in urban centers that experience higher levels of pollution because of proximity to traffic and point source pollution such as smokestacks.

"The Clean Air Council is dedicated to improving air quality for all New Jersey's residents, while ensuring a healthy legacy for generations to come," said Leonard Bielory, M.D., Public Hearing Chairman of the Clean Air Council. "The link between poor air quality and the increased risk of developing respiratory diseases, such as asthma, is a significant public health concern. By further reducing harmful air pollution we can improve the health of New Jersey residents, as well as reduce health care costs and alleviate the financial burden that air pollution places on businesses and the State."

The Council notes that scientific research over the past 30 years indicates a direct link between poor air quality and increased incidence of asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature deaths. The health care costs associated with treating conditions caused or aggravated by air pollution are high because of the loss of productivity with time away from school and work and the high number of emergency room visits. In New Jersey, more than two million people under the age of 65 are without insurance, and rely on hospitals as the only source of medical care. The use of the state's hospitals as primary care facilities burdens taxpayers and increases overall state costs.

Among the many recommendations offered by the Council, the report urges the State to increase its public outreach efforts to alert residents and visitors about the harmful effects of air pollution. Specifically, the Council is encouraging DEP to join with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) to expand existing pollen and mold "Health Alerts" to include ozone and a pollution index developed by DEP.

The Council is also urging DHSS to support regulation to limit smoking in all public facilities to protect the health and welfare of New Jersey's residents, tourists and workers.

"There would be an immediate impact with lasting benefits for all New Jerseyans if the legislature were to pass a ban on smoking in public places and the workplace," said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, Deputy Commissioner and State Epidemiologist of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. "The implementation of the Council's recommendations would improve the overall health of the public."

Consistent with the recommendations of the Council, DEP is increasing public awareness efforts through outreach and education, as well as regulation and enforcement initiatives to address diesel emissions caused by idling vehicles. A collaborative effort between DEP, NJDHSS, and UMDNJ is underway to expand the scope of the state's "Health Alerts."

The Clean Air Council, created in 1954, is comprised of representatives from public, private and non-profit groups who serve in an advisory capacity to the DEP regarding air matters.

For additional information and the Council's report, visit www.state.nj.us/dep/cleanair

 

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Last Updated: July 18, 2005