Half Diesel Fuel Particles Remain in Lungs Increasing Respiratory Disease Risk

smog
In population studies, they had previously found that people who lived in areas with a lot of particulates suffered from increased amounts of respiratory and cardiovascular issues. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

With an United States appeals court upholding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to limit carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, climate change proponents received a big win. But lost in all the talk about global warming is pollution, which has largely faded from public consciousness. A study conducted by researchers at Sweden’s Lund University may change that.

Perhaps linking the two issues of climate change and pollution, soot is linked with creating warmer climates in areas. Jenny Rissler, researcher in aerosol technology at Lunt University’s Faculty of Engineering, and the lead author of the study, believes that in the future, WHO will reclassify diesel fumes from “probably carcinogenic” to “carcinogenic.” The European Union will be tightening regulations on emissions for large diesel vehicles in 2014.

Diesel is often used in buses, freight trains and trucks. While Americans have generally ignored diesel cars, many automobile manufacturers make cars with diesel engines. BMW had commercials fairly recently touting diesel cars as more eco-friendly and fuel-efficient. While that may true, soot particles from diesel wreak havoc on the cardiovascular and respiratory system. They found that half of diesel particles remain trapped in the lungs.

The figure is significantly higher than other types of particles. In comparison, particles from wood and biomass consumption stand at 20 percent. Scientists hypothesize that the difference stems from the fact that diesel particles are smaller, and thus can burrow their way more deeply into the lungs, where they end up residing.

The study may have implications for governments, factories and freight transporters. In population studies, they had previously found that people who lived in areas with a lot of particulates suffered from increased amounts of respiratory and cardiovascular issues. However, since the studies could not actually pinpoint the blame on soot, authorities in governments had not made any decisions regarding the issue.

The study had an extremely small sample size, however, at only ten healthy people and future studies would be needed to establish any definite link between diesel fuel particles with disease.

The study was published in the Journal of Aerosol Science.

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