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Daily commute can make us ill, study says

The Arizona Republic

The Arizona Republic

You know your commute makes you cranky. It turns out it could also make you sick.

The bulk of the ultrafine particle pollution commuters are exposed to each day is inhaled on the way to and from work, says a report released Wednesday by the Clean Air Task Force, a Boston-based advocacy group.

Commuting takes up a small slice of the day – the average one-way commute in Tucson is 24 minutes – but it packs a powerful pollution punch.

Concentrations of the ultrafine particles emitted by diesel vehicles are four to eight times higher inside a car, bus and train than in open air, the report said. Particles can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Cars directly behind diesel trucks have higher concentrations of pollution inside than those traveling on routes less used by trucks.

The study specifically investigated diesel exhaust levels during commutes in New York, Boston, Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio.

The study documented diesel particle levels four to eight times higher inside commuter cars, buses, and trains than in the ambient outdoor air in those cities. These kinds of results though are likely during a commute anywhere in the country.

Relief may be on the way. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring all gasoline stations to phase in a type of diesel with 97 percent less sulfur. New heavy trucks must be fitted with particulate traps to reduce emissions.

The combination of ultralow-sulfur diesel and tailpipe filters is expected to reduce pollution from big vehicles by 90 percent.


To reduce your exposure to pollution on your commute, health experts recommend:

• Keep your windows closed.

• Close the outside vents.

• Choose routes with less truck traffic.

• See if your employer offers compressed workweeks or telecommuting opportunities.

To read the Clean Air Task Force report, go to www.tucsoncitizen.com and click on this story.

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