Diesel Engines Releasing Microscopic Particles in Ohio Valley
Dr. Michael McCawley of WVU's School of Public Health says that diesel trucks are shooting microscopic particles into the air that we are breathing into our lungs every day.
McCawley has done extensive research on these ultra-fine particles and says they're linked to diseases such as pediatric asthma, heart disease, and some cancers.
Concentrations of ultra-fine particles are high in West Virginia, particularly around gas drilling sites because of the high usage of diesel engines.
Dr. McCawley says the particles aren't harmful because they are made of poisonous substances, but because they are so small, they easily deposit into the lungs.
"The lung is kind of like a tree built upside down. Its branches at the top. The trunk being the trachea, the breathing tube going down, and then they go down to the alveoli which are essentially what the leaves of the tree would be, but the alveoli are the tiny sacs in your lungs that open and close. The ultra-fine particles can deposit anywhere in the branches and anywhere in the leaves - the alveoli," McCawley stated.
These particles are about as big as one-tenth of the width of a strand of hair, but they become a major health concern when they continuously clump together in the lungs.
Dr. McCawley says there is currently no regulation on ultra-fine particles by the EPA, and all current air quality policy applies to particles with a much larger mass.
Dr. McCawley explained that the only way ultra-fine particles can be regulated is if the EPA changes its measurement standards. Currently, particle regulations are based on mass and would need to be changed to count the number of particles in the air in order to include ultra-fine particles.