PORTLAND, Ore. -- Hundreds of Oregonians die prematurely ever year because of diesel pollution according to the Department of Environmental Quality.
Right now Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase regulations on diesel trucks and cut down on the number of older dirty diesel engines on our roads.
"It's responsible for more fatalities in Oregon every year than traffic crashes and I just don't want my daughter breathing it," said Alison Hikiah.
It's an issue she's been following closely ever since her daughter started at Lent Elementary School, which sits just yards away from Interstate 205.
Hilkiah says she can smell the pollution behind the school near the freeway.
'I don't need a scientific instrument to tell me there's pollution coming off the freeway in this spot. I smell it," she said.
"It's everywhere. It's just in the air," said Dr. Linda George.
George, a professor of Environmental Sciences and Management, has been studying diesel pollution in Portland for the last decade.
This past year, she and a team of researchers from Portland State University tested the air in areas around the city.
Their tests showed very high levels of diesel particles in the air.
"What we found by measuring several places in town was that the black carbon levels were ten to twenty times higher than the safe levels for diesel particulate matter," George said.
The black carbon particles can be easily inhaled and lodge deep in our lungs where they increase the risk of cancer and developmental problems in children
"That really effects kids pretty heavily because kids breath more than we do," said Dr. Erika Moseson.
Dr. Moseson specializes in lung disease. She says she see's first-hand the problems that come from diesel pollution.
"It's over three billion dollars a year in health care costs to Oregon alone just because of our air pollution especially when it's related to diesel," she said.
Lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would require diesel fleets in Oregon to reduce pollution and make it illegal for them to buy older dirty diesel engines.
The bill would also establish a fund, using the VW settlement money, to either replace or retrofit all older diesel school buses.
SB 1008, the Clean Engines, Clean Air Act is still in committee.