Don’t start breathing easy yet
Could so many doctors and scientists be so wrong about the ill effects of diesel emissions on people’s health?
It would be tempting to read today’s commentary by Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, and breathe easy about cruise ships emissions. But to do go there, you’d have to ignore the Charleston County Medical Society; the South Carolina Medical Association; the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment; the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; the Air Resources Board; the New England Journal of Medicine; the Journal of the American Medical Association; and the World Health Association.
Mr. Merrill argues that air quality in Charleston is fine, and that moving the State Ports Authority’s passenger terminal upriver 300 yards will make it even better. He says that the air meets state and federal requirements, and that cruise ships in port aren’t an issue for concern.
What he doesn’t say is that Carnival Cruise Lines, which has up to 104 cruises a year initiating in Charleston, is working to weaken federal air quality standards. Or that Carnival has helped other ports it calls on mitigate emissions by installing shoreside plug-in power. Someone there must see merit in using electricity and thus allowing cruise ships to turn off their diesel engines while docked.
The SPA contends that the cost of installing shoreside power does not justify doing it. Government standards, and a port in compliance with them, are enough to protect people who live nearby.
But the state medical association felt strongly enough about the matter to pass a resolution promoting shoreside power.
And numerous scientific research efforts have concluded, among other findings, that people who work around diesel driven equipment are more likely to develop lung cancer than those who are not exposed to diesel emissions; that diesel exhaust is associated with eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, headaches, lightheadedness and aggravated chronic respiratory problems; that fine particulate air pollution leads to an increase of lung cancer deaths and cardiopulmonary mortality; and that particulate matter is related to an increase in the risk of infant deaths.
Perhaps on Daniel Island, where Mr. Merrill lives, people don’t see it. But residents who live close to the passenger terminal complain that their porches and cars are black from the emissions. They don’t feel they can breathe a sigh of relief.