ISA Treasurer and District 6 Director Dave Walton stand

Biodiesel study shows benefits to human health

June 15, 2022 | Jeff Hutton

It should be no surprise to Iowa soybean farmers, but the importance of biodiesel goes beyond environmental. Along with climate, human health is substantially improved, according to research supported in part by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA).

Clean Fuels Alliance America (CFAA), formerly the National Biodiesel Board, recently released the second phase of a study facilitated by Trinity Consultants.

Communities could see the greatest benefits by using B100, pure biodiesel, in heavy-duty transportation and residential heating applications, the study says.

“As a farmer, it’s always on my mind where my soybeans go after processing,” says Dave Walton, ISA treasurer and District 6 board member from Wilton. “The Trinity study is a feel-good result knowing once my soybeans are crushed for oil and that oil is further processed into biodiesel it will have a positive effect on someone’s health due to cleaner air in that person’s community.”

The numbers

According to the study, replacing diesel fuel with biodiesel in Washington, D.C. alone could reduce the symptoms of asthma (such as needing to use an inhaler) by nearly 13,000 incidents per year. It also found that annual lost workdays could be reduced by almost 5,700, representing close to $1.5 million in economic activity. Overall, the economic benefit of improved health in the Washington, D.C., area would total more than $262 million each year.

Combining the earlier phase 1 (released in 2021) and phase 2 of the study, researchers found switching to 100% biodiesel in 28 transportation and home heating oil sectors studied would provide immediate community health improvements including:

• More than 456,000 fewer/reduced asthma cases per year;

• More than 142,000 fewer sick days per year;

• Cancer cases reduced by more than 9,400 (over a 70-year timeframe);

• The prevention of more than 910 premature deaths per year;

• More than $7.5 billion in avoided health costs annually;

• A 45% reduction in cancer risk when legacy heavy-duty trucks such as older semis use B100, and an 86% reduced risk when biodiesel is used for home heating oil, known as Bioheat® fuel.

ISA reaction

Walton, who also serves on the CFAA and American Soybean Association boards, said the second phase of the Trinity study further strengthens the case for biodiesel.

“When replacing petroleum diesel, biodiesel’s benefits go beyond lowering the carbon intensity of the liquid fuel,” he says. 

Biodiesel significantly reduces criteria pollutants, emissions such as particulate matter and carbon monoxide. These pollutants lead to smog, acid rain, and adverse health.

“This follow-up Trinity study confirms the results of the first study that was funded by a variety of sources, including the Iowa Soybean Association and other state soybean associations,” says Walton. “What it finds is a switch to B100 has a huge positive effect on the health of those living in the communities. Lower incidence of asthma, fewer lost workdays because of respiratory issues, and ultimately lowers the death rate due to cancer. These are benefits that can be realized immediately.

‘Very satisfying’

ISA’s $5,000 contribution to the research, Walton says, was an important investment.

“The switch to biodiesel helps protect the health of those who often live in disadvantaged communities,” he says. “As a farmer, this is great news. It tells me the soybeans that we grow, when processed into biodiesel, is helping protect the health of a community either in my backyard, or thousands of miles away and that is very satisfying.”

Along with the ISA, other organizations financially supporting the research included: Nebraska Soybean Board, South Dakota Research & Promotion Council, Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, Illinois Soybean Association, Ohio Soybean Council, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, Pennsylvania Soybean Board, New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association, Eastern Region Soybean Board and the New Jersey Soybean Board.

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