Preserving the Environment

Why New Farm and Construction Equipment Will Improve Air Quality and Save Lives

March 26, 2014
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Why New Farm and Construction Equipment Will Improve Air Quality and Save Lives
Scott Olson/Getty Images
John Deere green isn’t the only thing verdant about tractors anymore.

Diesel-sapping farm vehicles and construction equipment are going the way of the dodo — thanks to new standards from the Environmental Protection Agency that have forced big equipment makers to go green.

Like cars, buses, and heavy-duty trucks, bulldozers and tractors are getting a much-needed green makeover. Prompted by the EPA’s latest emission standards, manufacturers have cut fine particles (linked to heart attacks and respiratory disease) and nitrogen oxides in their newer models by 99 percent, the Environmental Health News reports. Additionally, CO2 (a driver of greenhouse gas) has also been reduced due to improved fuel efficiency.

These new standards are obviously welcome news because they should dramatically impact air quality. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2003 when talks of diesel-emission regulations first began, even though you don’t usually see tractors and bulldozers on the road, they account for 44 percent of soot and 12 percent of nitrogen oxide in the U.S. atmosphere.

MORE: What the Demise of Car Ownership Means for the Planet

Now that these standards are in place, not only will our lungs benefit from cleaner air, countless lives should also be saved, as farmers and construction workers are especially prone to diesel-related illnesses such as cancer, respiratory disease, and heart attacks. Amazingly, the EPA estimates that by 2030, the new standards will prevent 12,000 premature deaths and 8,900 hospitalizations per year.

The Environmental Health News report does note that there is still room for improvement. First, there is no federal incentive to buy greener equipment. Secondly, compared to cars or trucks, it takes much longer to replace bulldozers and tractors (some date back to the 1950s and 60s). However, these new EPA regulations mean that when farmers or construction workers finally do replace their gear, they will have no choice but to buy green because that’s all that is available.

Now that’s bulldozing our way to a cleaner future.

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