Cancer and the environment |

Cancer and the environment

Branden Cohen

I am sure you have noticed the black clouds coming from the exhaust of Aspen’s buses.

My daughter Sedona and former wife Kim live on 306 S. Garmisch and a bus passes by every five minutes or so. It stops at the corner and then continues on, leaving behind a black cloud of diesel exhaust. I have read that the city is in the process of purchasing four cleaner buses, but how big is the fleet?

It’s not just Aspen’s city buses that are big polluters but all diesel vehicles, including a large percentage of the pickup trucks and most delivery vehicles. I recently read on the National Resources Defense Council Web site ( that “diesel exhaust is responsible for a surprising 125,000 cancers nationwide.”

Not only that but children are the most vulnerable: “A child riding inside a diesel school bus may be exposed to as much as four times the level of toxic diesel exhaust as someone standing or riding beside it.” The majority of the nation’s school buses run on diesel fuel. “Over 40 individual chemical compounds in diesel exhaust have separately been listed as TACs (toxic air contaminants). These chemicals have also been listed by the EPA as compounds that cause cancer.”

Why are we focusing on bird flu, SARS and West Nile? They affect such a small number of people, though I acknowledge their hardship. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear about another person dying of cancer. How many locals have you read about in our daily papers?

Four years ago, my sister Lesli was diagnosed with dual aggressive breast cancer. Fortunately she is in remission after a hellish journey. Where do you think the cancer comes from? I’ll give you a hint: our water, food and air.

Must I be called a tree-hugger or liberal by some because I am concerned about my family’s health? How many will have to die from cancer before we start making changes in the way we live and do business?

I have heard that new national regulations regarding diesel fuel and exhaust may be on the books in 2007. We’ll see if it actually happens.

In the meantime, please call your elected officials, local and national, and financially support advocates like the NRDC. Purchase biodiesel from Catherine’s Store in Carbondale. Demand cleaner vehicles that run on natural gas and propane. Don’t wait until you need chemo and radiation before you make changes to protect our land, water and air.

Thanks for your efforts.