A coalition of public health organizations and doctors are calling for an end to diesel-powered vehicles in California, arguing that the pollution caused by diesel is doing serious and irreversible damage to the health of children.

Breathe LA, an organization that has worked for more than 115 years to raise public awareness of lung diseases, is leading the charge with its End Diesel Now campaign. Ceasing the use of diesel would have an immediate and dramatic impact on the health of Californians, said BreatheLA President and CEO Marc Carrel.

“California residents have the right to breathe cleaner air, and we owe it to future generations to solve the pollution problem caused by diesel now, before it escalates any further,” Carrel said. “The time to end diesel cannot wait any longer, and we are calling on everyone across California to join in on our mission.”

Joining Breathe LA in this campaign are the Coalition for Clean Air, Climate Cents, BreastCancer Prevention Partners, the Pulmonary Education and Research Foundation, Healthy Air Alliance, Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas en Norte America and Move LA.

The first test for the End Diesel Now campaign will likely come later this year when the HarborCommissions of the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach are expected to adopt policies that can accelerate the replacement of diesel trucks with clean alternative technologies.

“Climate change is here. From droughts to floods to melting glaciers – the signs could not be more clear. The leaders of Los Angeles and Long Beach have an incredible opportunity to take an action today that will improve our environment, climate, and air quality for decades to come” said Nick Karno, President and Co-Founder of local environmental nonprofit Climate Cents.

At stake is replacing almost 8,000 old, dirty diesel trucks that will be banned under state law onJan. 1, 2023. Policies adopted by the Commissioners will either replace those 8,000 old diesel trucks with slightly newer but still dirty diesel trucks, or motivate replacement with clean technologies that reduce harmful emissions and climate pollutants.

“Diesel is not clean,” Carrel said. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring in trucks that break the diesel cycle. We are asking the Harbor Commissions to adopt a policy that will incentivize companies to use technologies cleaner than diesel.”

“If we don’t act now, it could be another 10 or 20 years before we have another chance to get cleaner trucks on the road,” he said.

Banning diesel — something Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for by 2030 — would put California in step with other major cities around the world. Twenty-four European cities, including Paris,Athens and Madrid, have pledged to end diesel in the next decade and Mexico City has taken a similar dramatic step. Additionally, several countries, like France, Britain, and India are trying to eliminate diesel by 2030 and 2040 (with Norway aiming for 2025).

There are more than 169,000 heavy-duty smog-choking diesel trucks operating in the SouthCoast Air Basin today.

Diesel exhaust from these trucks is a major source of air pollution, greenhouse gases, black carbon and diesel particulate matter. This can trigger many health problems, including asthma, cancer, lung disease and heart disease.

The highest level of exposure is experienced by people living near ports, rail yards and freeways where diesel fuel is used to operate heavy duty trucks, vehicles and machinery.“

A child’s ZIP Code should not determine their life expectancy,” said Janet Nudelman, Director of Program and Policy at Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “Yet that is exactly what is happening in Southern California when dirty diesel trucks roar by homes, schools and playgrounds. When people are exposed to diesel particulate matter, they’re more likely to develop cancer and lung disease. This has to stop.”

Heavy-duty big rig trucks are responsible for one-fifth of the total GHG emissions from transportation sources in California. Diesel trucks are the number one source of climate pollutants and number two source of smog-forming NOx from operations at the Ports of LosAngeles and Long Beach. They are also the number one source for NOx in the South Coast AirBasin even though they make up just 2 percent of vehicles on the road.

Removing one heavy duty diesel truck from Southern California’s roads is the equivalent of eliminating 118 passenger vehicles.

That could have life-changing impacts for children.

Children, in particular, are vulnerable to the impact of diesel. In fact, children exposed to high levels of diesel exhaust are five times more likely to have underdeveloped lungs. They’re also more likely to visit the doctor for problems related to asthma.

Asthma rates in Los Angeles have increased dramatically in the last three decades, with approximately 260,000 children in L.A. County living with asthma. It is the most prevalent chronic disease among children, affecting 9 percent of children ages 0 to 17, and is the leading cause of children’s visits to hospital emergency rooms.

Visit EndDieselNow.org to join the campaign.