Dr. Jamson Lwebuga-Mukasa, a respected pulmonologist and epidemiologist who has published peer reviewed studies linking the West Side’s childhood asthma epidemic to diesel carcinogens emanating from the Peace Bridge, penned a letter published in Saturday’s edition of the Buffalo News debunking the frequently made claims of Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Brian Higgins.
In addition to his own research at the University at Buffalo, Dr. Lwebuga-Mukasa has conducted his research with renowned experts from leading research institutions, including the Harvard School of Public Health and Columbia University. Their studies have definitively linked truck exhaust at the Peace Bridge to disproportionately high rates of asthma, cancer and other diseases among West Side residents.
Dr. Lwebuga-Mukasa states plainly: “Pre-inspection will not improve air quality in Buffalo’s West Side. That is a fact, despite the rhetoric of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who subscribe to the flawed logic that speeding the flow of traffic by inspecting a percentage of trucks in Canada will fix the problem. They are wrong.”
Both Senator Schumer and Congressman Higgins have made the repeated claim that reducing congestion by increasing truck processing capacity will improve air quality. At a press event held to mark the recent launch of the preclearance pilot program, both heralded the program as “reducing pollution.”
“No one – nobody – is saying that this preclearance program would make the air quality situation worse. Inspecting the trucks in Canada, where there is more space, will ease the impact of diesel exhaust compared to inspecting those trucks in the United States, in close proximity to a residential neighborhood,” Schumer said at the February 24 press conference. “This is going to reduce pollution, because we are reducing congestion.”
But Dr. Lwebuga-Mukasa, a preeminent expert on the question, disagrees.
“Whether truck inspections occur on U.S. or Canadian soil, prevailing winds continue to blow toxic diesel exhaust from Fort Erie across the Niagara River, and into the lungs of West Side children. Do these children not deserve the clean air you enjoy?” Lwebuga-Mukasa writes. “We have been told that new federal emissions standards will reduce pollution in the West Side. This is false.”
Diesel exhaust is known to contain toxic carcinogens and billions of microscopic particles, only the largest of which are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Most of the cancerous particulates are “ultra fine” and cannot be detected without advanced monitoring equipment. He identifies the “ultrafine” particulates as those making West Side residents sick, each day causing “scores of West Side children [to be] hospitalized for asthma complications.”
Dr. Lwebuga-Mukasa also calls out the Cuomo Administration’s brief effort to monitor air quality at the Peace Bridge, writing that “Their studies not only employed a flawed methodology, but failed to examine the alarmingly high concentrations of ultrafine particles in the West Side. The State Department of Environmental Conservation cannot study ultrafine particles because it does not have the necessary equipment.”
“Pre-inspection is not the answer to the West Side’s asthma epidemic, and no one should dare say otherwise…This will not stop until you, your family and your friends call upon local leaders to cut the rhetoric and produce a responsible solution based on scientific facts, not science fiction,” Dr. Lwebuga-Mukasa concludes.
Arthur Giacolone, the respected longtime environmental attorney who publishes With All Due Respect, agreed with Dr. Lwebuga-Mukasa’s assessment.
“Unless the good people of Western New York respond to Dr. Lwebuga-Mukasa’s plea and demand a real solution from its local, state and federal leaders, the residents of Buffalo’s lower west side will continue to breathe the polluted air that spews from the commercial truck traffic at the Peace Bridge. A decent society would not allow this environmental injustice to continue,” Mr. Giacolone argues.