Detroit Air Quality Among Worst in U.S., American Lung Association Reports

Experts say biodiesel can help by reducing harmful emissions from diesel-powered vehicles.


ST. JOHNS, Michigan (April 20, 2023) – The American Lung Association’s new State of the Air report lists Detroit and Wayne County among the nation’s most highly polluted areas. But experts say that expanded use of biodiesel fuel could help improve the region’s air quality by reducing emissions from transportation and shipping systems.

Released April 19, the annual State of the Air report ranks the Detroit/Warren/Ann Arbor metropolitan area as the nation’s twelfth most polluted based on particulate matter content in the air. Furthermore, the report lists Wayne County number 22 among the most polluted places to live based on ozone and particulate pollution, both of which contribute to asthma and other deadly diseases.

“Detroiters have for years been working to address air pollution. It’s alarming to continue to see reports of high levels of pollution that negatively affect people’s health,” says Maggie Striz Calnin, Director of Michigan Clean Cities. “As we celebrate Earth Day this week, now’s the time to take action on multiple fronts to address air quality issues, and our coalition can help.”

Since diesel-powered vehicles are a major source of air pollution, Striz Calnin urges drivers and fleets to switch to bio-based diesel fuel to reduce harmful emissions. Biodiesel reduces particulate matter by 49% and hydrocarbons by 67% compared to petroleum diesel, according to the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center.

“Biodiesel can have an immediate impact on local air quality and quality of life. Detroit Department of Transportation already uses biodiesel as part of their clean fleet strategy, helping to cut tailpipe pollution in Detroit,” says Striz Calnin.

“Biodiesel effectively fuels city and school buses, truck fleets, fire engines, construction equipment, maritime vessels and any other diesel-powered vehicles,” says Pete Probst, fuel consultant and president of Chicago-based Indigenous Energy. “Fuel blends containing up to 20% biodiesel require no engine modifications and perform the same as diesel,” Probst says.

While the America Lung Association’s State of the Air report describes the air pollution burden, a report from Trinity Consultants completed in 2022 showed a potential annual health benefit of $53 million if diesel vehicles operating in Detroit switched from petroleum diesel to B20 biodiesel – and $267 million if they switched to B100, or 100% biodiesel. Potential health costs savings included reduced asthma treatments, fewer emergency room visits, and less work loss days. Trinity Consultants is a leading global environmental health and safety firm based in Dallas. The report was commissioned by Clean Fuels Alliance America.

“The State of the Air report is another reminder that Detroiters can’t wait for solutions. Kids are missing school due to illness, COVID was worse here, people’s daily lives are a struggle due to sleep apnea, and birth outcomes are worse here – all linked to air pollution from diesel. We need a serious increase in clean fuel use in our area,” says Raquel Garcia, Executive Director of Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision.

“We invite the trucking sector to be part of the solution. SDEV has worked with the City of Detroit’s General Services Department to modernize the fleet through U.S. EPA Diesel Emission Reduction Act grants. We want all our Healthy Business Partners to commit to operating clean fleets,” Garcia says.

In addition to contributing to cleaner air, biodiesel brings many other benefits to the state, according to Hanna Campbell, demand specialist for Michigan Soybean Committee and a founder of the Michigan Advanced Biofuels Coalition (MiABC).

“Biodiesel is a renewable fuel with a 30-year history of successful use. It creates jobs and builds revenue, while also protecting our environment and air quality,” says Campbell. “Since the fuel is often produced using oil from soybeans grown in Michigan, use of biodiesel also benefits our state’s farmers while increasing energy security.”

For more information about biodiesel and MiABC, visit

Media Contacts

Sonja Lapak, Michigan Soybean Committee

Phone: 989-652-3294

Pete Probst, MiABC

Phone: 872-395-3940

About Michigan Soybean Committee (MSC)

The Michigan Soybean Committee manages the investment of checkoff dollars on behalf of the 12,000+ soybean farmers in Michigan to increase their return on investment while enhancing sustainable soybean production. MSC is governed by the rules of a federally mandated checkoff program and led by a 7-member governor-appointed board of directors. Checkoff investments are used to research, educate and develop market opportunities for soybeans.

About Michigan Clean Cities (MICC)

MICC addresses the national challenge of petroleum dependence by speeding the adoption of low- and zero-emission fuels and vehicles. MICC is the local point of contact for the Affordable Mobility Platform EV car sharing project, the EMPOWER workplace EV charging project, the Clear the Air for Schoolkids initiative, and the Michigan to Montana Fuel and EV Corridor Development Project (M2M Corridor), which seeks to build out alternative fuel and electric charging availability along the full length of I-94 from the Canadian border at Port Huron to Billings, Montana. Michigan Clean Cities is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and our stakeholders. Michigan Clean Cities is affiliated with NextEnergy. Learn more about MICC at:

About Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision (SDEV)

SDEV works to reveal the pride and resilience of Southwest Detroit through healthy neighborhoods that have clean landscapes, clean air, and clean water. Our programs support healthy homes, businesses, parks and schools that are safe to get to and from, environmentally sound, and that contribute to an overall thriving community. Southwest Detroit residents, businesses, educational institutions, health facilities, and community organizations have contributed to defining SDEV by participating in the development of the Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision Project (1991), in annual community sessions each December, as well as participating in projects like Community Action for a Renewed Environment (2007-2011) and the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving grant (2014-2017). Learn more at

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