Summary of Findings
- Air Pollution and Human Health
Scientific experts now believe the nation faces an epidemic of illnesses
that are exacerbated by air pollution. These illnesses include
cardiovascular disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
lung cancer, and diabetes.
- Children at Special Risk
The American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that levels of ozone
and particulate matter are high enough in many parts of the U.S.
to threaten children’s health. (1) Eleven million U.S. children
live in areas that exceed one or more federal air quality standards;
9 million children live in areas where ozone standards are exceeded;
3.5 million children live in areas where the particulate standards
are exceeded, and 2.8 million children live in counties where the
carbon monoxide standard is exceeded. (2)
- Elderly at Special Risk
Cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and cancer are all
ill-nesses disproportionately borne by the elderly. Nearly one-half
million Connecticut residents are over 65 years of age.
Chemicals in vehicle exhaust are harmful to asthmatics. Exhaust can
adversely affect lung function (3,4,5,6) and may promote allergic
reactions and airway constriction. (7) All vehicles, especially
diesel engines, emit very fine particles that deeply penetrate
lungs and inflame the circulatory system, damaging cells and causing
respiratory problems. (8) Even short-term exposure to vehicle exhaust
may harm asthmatics. (9,10,11,12) Asthmatic children are particularly
sensitive to air pollution. New England states have some of the
highest asthma rates in the country. About 9 percent of Connecticut’s
youth have the disease. (13) Inhalation of vehicle emissions, even
for short periods, may be harmful to asthmatics. One study found
that children are 40 percent more likely to have an attack on high
outdoor pollution days. (14)
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Vehicle emissions are particularly harmful to people afflicted with
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as chronic bronchitis.
Significant and replicated associations have been found between
increased ozone levels and a range of adverse effects on the lungs,
(15) and several studies have shown increased risk of hospital
admission from COPD associated with high ozone levels. (16) There
is also a relationship between the levels of PM10 and morbidity
(17) in patients with COPD. These associations were noted in Philadelphia,
where the major source of these particles is motor vehicles. (18)
Fine particle matter is especially harmful to people with COPD
(19, 20) and has been found to increase their hospital admission
rates. (21) High levels of PM10 are also associated with increased
morbidity among those with the illness.
- Cardiovascular Disease
Mortality and hospital admissions for myocardial infarction, congestive
cardiac failure and cardiac arrhythmia increase with a rise in
the concentrations of particulate and gaseous pollutants. (22)
As concentrations of airborne particles increase, those with cardiovascular
disease may experience increasing severity of symptoms, rates of
hospitalization, and mortality. (23) The risk of having a heart
attack is greater for people exposed to pollution from heavy traffic,
as well as for those living near air-polluted roadways. (24)
Vehicles emit numerous carcinogenic chemicals. Diesel contains benzene,
formaldehyde, and 1,3-butadiene—all three are well recognized
carcinogens. EPA estimates that vehicle emissions account for as
many as half of all cancers attributed to outdoor air pollution.
Increasing levels of air pollution are associated with rising mortality
rates among diabetics. Because of the overlap between diabetes
and cardiovascular disease, the nature of this association is not
yet clear. (26)
- Air Pollution Increases Mortality Among Susceptible Groups
Air pollution kills more Americans than breast and prostate cancers
combined, (27) and the premature deaths associated with particulate
matter pollution alone are comparable to deaths from traffic accidents.
(28) Air pollution is a serious and growing threat to the health
of Connecticut residents. We estimate that nearly one million of
Connecticut’s 3.5 million residents experience one or more
of these illnesses, some without knowing it.
- Vehicle Emissions
Mobile emissions that are believed to present the greatest health
risk to Connecticut residents include ozone, particulate matter,
acetaldehyde, acrolein, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, formaldehyde, and
- Ozone and Motor Vehicles
Motor vehicles emit millions of pounds of hazardous pollutants into
the air each year in the U.S., including volatile organic compounds
and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). These chemicals form ozone in the
presence of sunlight.
- Fine Particulate Matter
Fine particulate matter is a serious threat to human health. Fine
particles can aggravate both heart and lung diseases. Those with
diabetes, older adults, and children are especially sensitive.
Fine particulate matter is responsible for several tens of thousands
of premature deaths annually in the U.S. (29) and is measured at
levels above federal air quality standards in Connecticut. (30)
- Diesel Exhaust
Diesel exhaust is especially dangerous, containing nearly 40 hazardous
pollutants. The mixture contains carbon particles that are exceptionally
small in size, less than one micron. These fine particles may be
deeply inhaled into the lung and carry with them a collection of
attached hazardous compounds. Diesel emissions increase the severity
and duration of asthma attacks.
- Diesel Emissions
The California Air Resources Board concluded that diesel emissions
account for the majority of cancer risk created by all outdoor
air pollution sources in the state. The American Academy of Pediatrics
recommends that children’s exposure to diesel exhaust particles
should be decreased and that idling of diesel vehicles in places
where children live and congregate should be minimized to protect
their health. (31) School bus particulate emissions sometimes exceed
the federal PM2.5 standards by as much as ten-fold.
- Averaging Air Pollution
The government is allowed to average some pollutants across long
periods of time. For example, PM2.5 is permitted to be averaged
over 24 hour intervals, and the 24-hour averages are then averaged
over three years, before compliance with federal standards is determined.
The results mask serious high pollution episodes. Medical scientists
have determined that much shorter-term exposures, measured in hours
or minutes, are potentially dangerous to susceptible populations,
such as those with cardiovascular, respiratory, and other illnesses.
- Air Quality Monitoring Deficiencies
Government understanding of the severity of air pollution depends
upon what is being monitored and where the monitoring occurs. Air
quality varies across space and time, and is dependent upon climatic
conditions. It is poorest, but may not be monitored, where traffic
is most intense, normally where highways slow near urban areas,
near construction sites, and where trucks, buses, and cars tend
to concentrate and idle: schools, hospitals, shopping centers,
truck stops, warehouses, ports and shipping facilities, oil tank
farms, rail stations, bus terminals, and where gas and diesel powered
vehicles are used within warehouses or ships.
- Diesel Fuel Consumption
Use of diesel fuel doubled in the U.S. between 1982 and 1998. The
demand for transportation fuel continues to rise throughout the
nation, particularly for diesel fuel.
- Fuel Economy Stagnation
In the last 15 years, there has been little improvement in the miles
per gallon (MPG) rating of cars and light trucks. The average MPG
achieved by trucks has remained the same for the last 30 years
at approximately 5.5 miles per gallon.
- Highways as Air Pollution Corridors
Highways are recognized by scientific experts to act as three-dimensional
corridors of air pollution containing many hazardous chemicals.
- Fuel Oil Consumption
Home heating fuel is essentially the same as diesel fuel, although
the sulfur content is higher. Connecticut is exceptionally dependent
on No. 2 fuel oil for heating purposes, and last year ranked fourth
in the nation in raw consumption at more than 660 million gallons.
By contrast, 230 million gallons of diesel fuel were used for transport
purposes. Connecticut ranks first in the nation in fuel oil consumption
per square mile of state area. This means that diesel pollution
will be most severe where residential and traffic density are highest.
It also explains the high particulate counts routinely measured
in areas where population density is high and where multiple traffic
lanes funnel into single lanes. Chronic traffic congestion leads
to chronic human exposure to known hazardous air pollutants.
- PM2.5 Non-Compliance
Fine particulate matter in Connecticut exceeds federal air quality
standards. (32) During the first six months of 2005, levels of
fine particulates, or PM2.5, in New Haven, Connecticut, exceeded
the federal standard for 70 days, roughly 40 percent of the time.
- Ozone Non-Compliance
The entire state of Connecticut exceeds the eight-hour ozone standard.
- Connecticut’s Dependence on Motor Vehicles
Fewer than three percent of Connecticut residents walk to work, (34)
and 45 percent of all Connecticut trips under a half-mile are made
in a vehicle. (35) Connecticut residents spend on average 70 minutes
a day in their cars, often breathing this polluted air. (36)
- Connecticut Citizens’ Proximity to Highways
One in three Connecticut citizens live within a mile of an interstate
highway. As many as 70,000 of those residents are under the age
of five. (37) In addition, 37 percent of the state’s schools
are located within a mile of an interstate highway. (38)
- Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)
Connecticut residents own nearly three million vehicles, and travel
nearly 31 billion miles each year. Each year residents put more
miles on their vehicles in a year than ever before. The number
of vehicles driven in the state is also growing. Between 1995 and
and 2000, state residents increased the miles driven by 10 percent
(39) and this trend is expected to continue. The number of Vehicle
miles traveled (VMT) in the state is projected to rise by another
12 percent by 2010 and by 27 percent by 2025. (40) The increase
in VMT in recent years has overwhelmed the technological advances
made with respect to vehicle emissions reductions. (41)
- Idling and Wasted Fuel
The U.S. Argonne National Laboratory estimates that about 20 million
barrels of diesel fuel are consumed each year by idling long-haul
trucks. Estimated truck emissions total about 10 million tons of
CO2, 50,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 2,000 tons of particulates.
- Natural Resources
Canada estimates that idling a light duty vehicle for 10 minutes
a day uses an average of 26.4 gallons (100 liters) of gas a year.
Assuming Connecticut has approximately 2.2 million light duty vehicles,
if idling time were reduced by 10 minutes per day for each, nearly
58 million gallons of gas would be saved per year, along with $145
million in fuel costs per year if one assumes that gas costs $2.50
- Vehicle Emissions and Climate Change
Vehicle emissions contribute to air pollution generated from the
combustion of fossil fuels from many other sources, including the
burning of coal and oil in power plants, incinerators, home heating
oil, and construction equipment. The combustion of gas and diesel
fuels produce greenhouse gases that are contributing to local,
regional and global climatic changes. A recent study published
in Science analyzed more than 900 scientific articles listed with
the keywords “global climate change.” Not one disagreed
with the consensus view that humans are contributing to global
warming. (43) Little initiative is expected on this issue at the
national and international levels of government. Connecticut has
the potential to become a leader among states in reducing these
- Carbon Dioxide
Carbon dioxide (CO2), considered the largest contributor to greenhouse
climate change, accounts for more than 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse
gas emissions. One-third of these emissions come from the transportation
sector. (44) Carbon dioxide emissions originate almost entirely
from fossil fuel consumption, and two-thirds of U.S. fuel consumption
is used for transportation. (45)