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Border guards concerned over diesel exhaust exposure
OTTAWA -- The union representing Canada's border officers is launching an investigation to find out if gas and diesel emissions from idling cars and trucks lined up at crossings is affecting officers' health. According to a recent story from the Ottawa Citizen, Customs officers working at border crossings want to know if prolonged exposure to petroleum emissions could contribute to illnesses such as respiratory diseases or cancer. Prolonged exposure to diesel exhaust, which is arguably a cause of cancer, is a particular concern for officers who work near transport trucks that queue up In their approach to Canada-U.S. border crossings.

The union for Canada's border guards says seven
female officers working at the Ambassador have got cancer
"It's horrendous you can almost taste the fumes," Marie-Claire Coupal told the Citizen. Coupal works at the Windsor-Detroit tunnel and is president of the border officers' union local. Coupal claims seven female officers who work at Windsor-Detroit Ambassador Bridge -- which has perhaps the longest vehicle lineups between the two nations -- have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. There were no cases among officers working in the tunnel, says Coupal, who points out it's too early to conclude the illness was caused by exhaust fumes. The Detroit-Windsor crossings account for about a quarter of the $400 billion ($526 billion) in goods that travel each year between the U.S. and Canada. Each year, 3.25 million trucks cross the bridge. Annual commercial traffic between the two crossings has doubled over the last decade, and is expected to triple within the next 20 years. The Canada Border Services Agency has begun taking proposals from contractors to study the extent of the exhaust and noise pollution at the border points. The study will measure exhaust levels at the customs inspectors booths in the Ontario border crossings of Windsor, Lansdowne, and Cornwall, as well as Lacolle, Que. It is expected to be completed by January 2007. Two years ago, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has released results of an air quality study, which showed that air quality and pollution along the busy Huron Church corridor in Windsor worsens as traffic and congestion leading up to the border increases.

An Ontario study in 2004 found emissions rise as the
number of backed-up trucks on Huron Church increases
The study used monitors to examine the levels of emissions from diesel engines -- including particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) -- on the Canadian side of the Ambassador Bridge at the Windsor/Detroit border crossing between the fall of 2002 and the spring and summer of 2003. In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency released a controversial 651-page study that concluded diesel exhaust probably causes lung cancer. While the report noted the long-term health effects of exposure to diesel engine exhaust were uncertain, "the evidence for a potential cancer hazard to humans resulting from chronic inhalation exposure to [diesel emissions] is persuasive." Furthermore, the report, conducted over a 10-year period, stated that tests on animals showed diesel emissions likely to be a carcinogen, a cancer-causing substance, although the agency found insufficient scientific evidence to quantify a relationship between diesel exhaust exposure and lung cancer. While the trucking industry acknowledges that prolonged exposure to any petroleum exhaust could be risky, officials point out that since 2002, new trucks have been arguably the cleanest vehicles on the road. Upcoming EPA requirements in 2007 will virtually eliminate NOx and cut particulate matter by another 90 percent by 2010. EPA's own air quality data shows that from 1990-1998 -- long before the newest rounds of tough emission controls took effect, levels of diesel particulates in the atmosphere dropped by over 37 percent. -- with files from the Ottawa Citizen
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