New study highlights the health benefits of biodiesel


New study highlights the health benefits of biodiesel

A new study has found that switching to biodiesel can result in health benefits.

The study conducted by Trinity Consultants was sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board with support from the Nebraska Soybean Board, South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, California Advanced Biofuels Alliance, Iowa Soybean Board, and the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board.

NBB CEO Donnell Rehagen says the industry often focuses on environmental benefits of biodiesel, but the new study helps highlight its health benefits.   

“The important thing about this study is that it quantifies those health benefits at the neighborhood level—benefits including lowering cancer risk, reducing premature deaths, decreasing asthma attacks, and reducing sick/work loss days,” he says. “…biodiesel is a drop-in solution available now.  Biodiesel offers the opportunity to improve human health starting tomorrow, not 10 or 20 years in the future as we wait for new or emerging technology. It is a simple solution that is already widely available.”

The study used EPA air dispersion modeling tools and health risk assessments and benefit valuations to assess the benefits and economic savings of converting from petroleum-based diesel to 100 percent biodiesel, or B100, in 13 communities in the U.S. exposed to high rates of petroleum diesel pollution.

Floyd Vergara, director of state governmental affairs, outlines some of the findings…“for the 13 sites that were evaluated, the study shows that switching to 100 percent biodiesel in the home heating and transportation sectors would annually prevent up to 340 premature deaths, 46,000 fewer sick days, and $3 billion in avoided health care costs,” he says.

NBB Director of Environmental Science Matt Herman says wider adoption of biodiesel would also reduce air pollution.

“The greenhouse gases have tended to dominate the conversation around biodiesel and other transportation alternatives and these conversations have unfortunately drowned out the other significant benefits of the fuel, mainly its ability to reduce harmful air pollutants,” he says. “So, while the greenhouse gas reductions are very important for global implications, improving air quality has a much more local, much more personal benefit. Communities which suffer from poor air quality tend to be located in areas nearby high volumes of diesel traffic such as ports, shipping and logistics centers, and other transit hubs…biodiesel is a highly sustainable solution that’s available for use today.”

In the transportation sector, other benefits include a potential 45% reduction in cancer risk when heavy-duty trucks like semis use B100 and 203,000 fewer or lessened asthma attacks. When Bioheat fuel made from 100% biodiesel is used in place of petroleum heating oil, the study found an 86% reduced cancer risk and 17,000 fewer lung problems.

The study also considered the economic cost. researchers found the communities surrounding the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach would avoid about $1.69 billion in health costs due to improved air quality in the form of reduced premature deaths and health care costs and increased productivity.

The study focused on communities in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts exposed to high rates of these health burdens.

Vergara says although the data is focused on 13 sites, it is scalable to other areas.