Residents of the South Bronx and North Brooklyn are breathing high levels of diesel emissions emitted from garbage trucks, putting them at elevated risk of respiratory disease, according to a new study from a coalition of unions and community groups.

The study, which was released Tuesday by the Transform Don't Trash NYC coalition at a press conference in the Bronx, monitored air quality and garbage truck traffic along major garbage truck routes in the two regions of the city. The coalition focused on the South Bronx and North Brooklyn because of their high concentration of waste transfer stations. Together, these areas host 32 of city's 58 transfer stations.

The study was conducted over several weeks by community members, who counted truck traffic and collected street-level readings of fine particulate matter using hand-held monitors at intersections at different times of day. The data was compared with ambient particulate readings from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation— particulate levels were seven times higher than ambient levels in the South Bronx and five times higher in North Brooklyn.

The South Bronx recorded the highest number of total trucks per hour, the majority of which were garbage trucks. According to Angela Torvar, director of community development at The Point, one of the nonprofits in the TDT NYC coalition, approximately 300 diesel trucks go through the South Bronx each hour.

Exposure to diesel pollution is associated with asthma and other respiratory diseases, with children and young adults particularly susceptible. Lorraine Pierre-Destine, a nurse at the Pediatric Emergency Department at Lincoln Hospital who testified on behalf of the New York State Nurses Association, said that the respiratory ailments caused by the pollutants will "continue throughout a child's lifetime into adulthood."

The study also looked at the exposure to diesel pollution of truckers in the private waste industry, who according to the press release accompanying the report are disproportionately people of color. Truckers participating in the study monitored the air quality inside of their trucks.

Steve Falk, a trucker for a private waste disposal firm and a member of Teamsters Local 813, said he participated because he is concerned about the risks of exposure to diesel pollution. "I worry about what this job is doing to my health and my life," he said. "We all deserve to drive cleaner trucks and breathe safe clean air."

Mayor de Blasio has proposed a commercial waste policy that is intended to reduce New Yorkers' exposure to diesel emissions. Currently, the city does not regulate the scheduling or logistics of commercial waste collection, instead leaving it up to businesses to individually contract with waste disposal companies. Because there is no coordination among businesses, collection routes often overlap, increasing emissions, wasting fuel and adding to traffic congestion.

Under the proposed plan, the city will be divided into geographic zones. Instead of having multiple private waste disposal companies operating in the same area, the zone plan would have firms bid to be the exclusive waste collector for a given zone. The de Blasio administration says this system will reduce truck traffic and emissions and that it will force waste disposal firms to improve labor standards and increase recycling rates, as they will be judged in these areas during the bidding process.

The TDT NYC report offers several recommendations for the de Blasio plan, including more evenly distributing future waste transfer stations and diverting more waste to marine and rail-based facilities. The coalition also recommends that the city require or incentivize waste disposal companies to adopt low-emissions technologies or reduce their reliance on diesel trucks. The vast majority of trash trucks in the city are a decade or more old and designed with older, dirtier technologies. Only 10 percent meet 2007 EPA emissions standards.

Pierre-Destine, the nurse, said the affected communities particularly fear the long-term effects of exposure to diesel pollution. "It's devastating for parents to watch their children inhale these pollutants," she said.