You would expect that a place like the Daintree where a community
is wedged in betweenthe two adjoining World Heritage areas of the
Daintree rain forest and the Great Barrier Reef, that the government
would insist on the cleanest possible energy supply, but no, in
their efforts to discourage settlement and sabotage the local economy
they give residents and businesses no support and basically force
them to run generators.
This means that every year four million litres of fuel is trucked
across the Daintree river and this is converted in hundreds of generators
to approximately 10,000 tonnes of CO2 which blows in to the oldest
rain forest in the world and contributes to the climate change that
is affecting the Great Barrier Reef.
Piles of discarded lead-acid batteries sit around in the Daintree
Besides the CO2 emissions the Daintree community also
works itself through a lot of engine oil that has to be discardeed,
and equipment that has to be renewed on a regular basis, giving
a whole new meaning to "renewable energy".
Battery banks last about seven years, and generators, inverters,
battery chargers and solar panels also wear out and have to be discarded
and replaced on a regular basis.
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Diesel Engines and Public Health
With mounting evidence that diesel exhaust poses major health hazards,
reducing diesel pollution has become a public priority.
Health Impacts of Diesel Pollution
Diesel-powered vehicles and equipment account for nearly half of
all nitrogen oxides (NOx) and more than two-thirds of all particulate
matter (PM) emissions from US transportation sources.
Particulate matter or soot is created during the incomplete combustion
of diesel fuel. Its composition often includes hundreds of chemical
elements, including sulfates, ammonium, nitrates, elemental carbon,
condensed organic compounds, and even carcinogenic compounds and
heavy metals such as arsenic, selenium, cadmium and zinc.¹
Though just a fraction of the width of a human hair, particulate
matter varies in size from coarse particulates (less than 10 microns
in diameter) to fine particulates (less than 2.5 microns) to ultrafine
particulates (less than 0.1 microns). Ultrafine particulates, which
are small enough to penetrate the cells of the lungs, make up 80-95%
of diesel soot pollution.
Particulate matter irritates the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs,
contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses and even
premature death. Although everyone is susceptible to diesel soot
pollution, children, the elderly, and individuals with preexisting
respiratory conditions are the most vulnerable. Researchers estimate
that, nationwide, tens of thousands of people die prematurely each
year as a result of particulate pollution. Diesel engines contribute
to the problem by releasing particulates directly into the air and
by emitting nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides, which transform into
"secondary" particulates in the atmosphere.
Diesel emissions of nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation
of ground level ozone, which irritates the respiratory system, causing
coughing, choking, and reduced lung capacity. Ground level ozone
pollution, formed when nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbon emissions
combine in the presence of sunlight, presents a hazard for both
healthy adults and individuals suffering from respiratory problems.
Urban ozone pollution has been linked to increased hospital admissions
for respiratory problems such as asthma, even at levels below the
federal standards for ozone.
Diesel exhaust has been classified a potential human carcinogen
by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International
Agency for Research on Cancer. Exposure to high levels of diesel
exhaust has been shown to cause lung tumors in rats, and studies
of humans routinely exposed to diesel fumes indicate a greater risk
of lung cancer. For example, occupational health studies of railroad,
dock, trucking, and bus garage workers exposed to high levels of
diesel exhaust over many years consistently demonstrate a 20 to
50 percent increase in the risk of lung cancer or mortality.²
Diesel Pollution and Public Health Solutions
The public-health problems associated with diesel emissions have
intensified efforts to develop viable solutions for reducing these
emissions. Both federal and state governments have taken steps to
reduce diesel emissions, but more work needs to be done.
Cleaner Fuels – The EPA has adopted more stringent fuel standards
to reduce the amount of sulfur allowed in diesel fuel. These requirements
went into effect in late 2006 for on-road diesel vehicles, while
off-road diesel fuel used in construction equipment and trains will
take effect over the next five years. Lower sulfur diesel fuel allows
the use of advanced emission control technologies, which when combined,
can reduce emissions more than 85 percent. The fuel used in ships
visiting our port cities, however, is not subject to EPA's regulation
and remains a significant source of diesel pollution.
New Engine Standards – New engine standards for diesel cars,
trucks and heavy equipment have traditionally lagged far behind
those for gasoline powered vehicles. For example, diesel construction
equipment faced no emissions standards as late as 1996. With mounting
pressure to clean-up diesel engines, the EPA has adopted standards
for both heavy-duty trucks and off-road construction equipment and
more recently for marine vessels and trains, which will phase in
over the coming decade. Under current regulations, passenger cars
and trucks are subject to the same emission standards regardless
of the fuel they use.
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The following reflect data from the Center for Disease Control,
United States Consumer Product Safety Commission and Synovate, Inc.,
Multi-Client Research Group:
Current ICE Generator emissions kill approximately 500 people annually
from carbon monoxide.
This number tripled between 2000 and 2005. Survivors could be affected
with severe disabilities such as blindness, paralysis, Parkinson’s
Disease, temporary emotional instability, memory loss, psychosis,
dementia, incontinence, or peripheral neuropathy.
As late as 2005, 65% of people polled by the Center for Disease
Control (CDC) mistakenly believe that it is safe to run a generator
in a basement.
Small engines are environmentally unsound: Home generators emit
as much carbon dioxide (CO) as 100 idling automobiles.
30% of the world’s CO problems are caused by small engines.
It is estimated that 40,000 people per year seek hospital room/ER
treatment nationwide for CO poisoning. CO may manifest itself as
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The ingredients of air pollution
Cars and trucks produce air pollution throughout their life, including
pollution emitted during vehicle operation, refueling, manufacturing,
and disposal. Additional emissions are associated with the refining
and distribution of vehicle fuel.
Air pollution from cars and trucks is split into primary and secondary
pollution. Primary pollution is emitted directly into the atmosphere;
secondary pollution results from chemical reactions between pollutants
in the atmosphere. The following are the major pollutants from motor
Particulate matter (PM). These particles of soot and metals give
smog its murky color. Fine particles — less than one-tenth
the diameter of a human hair — pose the most serious threat
to human health, as they can penetrate deep into lungs. PM is a
direct (primary) pollution and a secondary pollution from hydrocarbons,
nitrogen oxides, and sulfer dioxides. Diesel exhaust is a major
contributor to PM pollution.
Hydrocarbons (HC). These pollutants react with nitrogen oxides in
the presence of sunlight to form ground level ozone, a primary ingredient
in smog. Though beneficial in the upper atmosphere, at the ground
level this gas irritates the respiratory system, causing coughing,
choking, and reduced lung capacity.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx). These pollutants cause lung irritation and
weaken the body's defenses against respiratory infections such as
pneumonia and influenza. In addition, they assist in the formation
of ground level ozone and particulate matter.
Carbon monoxide (CO). This odorless, colorless, and poisonous gas
is formed by the combustion of fossil fuels such as gasoline and
is emitted primarily from cars and trucks. When inhaled, CO blocks
oxygen from the brain, heart, and other vital organs. Fetuses, newborn
children, and people with chronic illnesses are especially susceptible
to the effects of CO.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2). Power plants and motor vehicles create this
pollutant by burning sulfur-containing fuels, especially diesel.
Sulfur dioxide can react in the atmosphere to form fine particles
and poses the largest health risk to young children and asthmatics.
Hazardous air pollutants (toxics). These chemical compounds have
been linked to birth defects, cancer, and other serious illnesses.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the air toxics
emitted from cars and trucks — which include Benzene, acetaldehyde,
and 1,3-butadiene — account for half of all cancers caused
by air pollution.