The residents of Pittsburgh and of Allegheny County should feel proud, but not complacent, about the local accomplishments to reduce diesel-exhaust emissions by retrofitting the city's fleet of diesel-powered garbage trucks ("City to Reduce Emissions From Garbage Truck Fleet," Oct. 17). This achievement makes the air safer for sanitation workers and drivers and for residents who are exposed as pedestrians or as drivers who follow the trucks.
The county executive, the mayor, the Allegheny County Health Department and the Group Against Smog and Pollution deserve credit for their multiple efforts to reduce diesel pollution through retrofitting of garbage trucks and school buses, through anti-idling legislation and through public education.
Exposure to diesel exhaust serves as a cause of significant human illness, including asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, lung cancer and cardiovascular disorders. While the recent accomplishments are praiseworthy, much remains to be done to reduce diesel-exhaust pollution emitted by buses, trucks, trains, working boats and diesel-powered construction equipment. This public health problem can be fixed through efforts of the local government, the Allegheny County Health Department, organizations such as GASP, diesel engine manufacturers and an educated public that insists on controlling these dangerous emissions.
At a time when we debate health-care coverage in our country, the discussion of improving health through the prevention of disease by measures such as the reduction of dangerous pollutants has not received enough attention. The retrofitting of the diesel engines in the garbage truck fleet is emblematic of the kinds of efforts that can improve health, reduce mortality and reduce health-care costs, each important ingredients in solving the delivery of health-care services and improving the well-being of our residents.
STANLEY J. GEYER, M.D