Study: Diesel Exhaust Damaging to People with Asthma

Dec. 7, 2007: Source – Science Daily

London Traffic Congestion

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says the lung function of people with asthma is harmed by the effects of diesel traffic pollution. A British medical research team is the first to study the health effects of diesel exhaust in a real-life setting. Their research site was Oxford Street in London, one of the busiest urban shopping districts in that country.

"The results of our study show for the first time that roadside exposure to diesel traffic can be harmful for asthmatics. Our findings may also help city planners to consider how they lay out future road structures to make sure that, where possible, pedestrians’ exposure to exhaust fumes is minimized," said Dr. Paul Cullinan, of the Royal Brompton Hospital and team leader of the study.

Modern, cleaner-burning diesel powerplants produce far fewer emissions than previous generations of diesel vehicles. However, these so-called “clean diesels” have only recently emerged on the market. Diesel engines manufactured before advances in the technology—and which generally stay in use longer than gasoline engines—will continue to cause health-related problems for many years.

Researchers looked at what effect a two-hour walk in two different London settings might have on 60 volunteers, all asthmatics to some degree. First, volunteers walked on the heavily-congested Oxford Street, where only buses and taxis are allowed, all of them diesel-powered. The second walk occurred in a traffic-free section called Hyde Park.

The researchers observed a much greater reduction in lung function when the participants were walking down Oxford Street, compared to Hyde Park. On Oxford Street, volunteers experienced increased asthma symptoms, reduced lung capacity, and inflammation in the lungs. In Hyde Park, just a few miles away, they experienced some of the same problems, but to a far lesser degree.

Air quality tests showed three times as many ultra fine particulates, as well as three times the nitrogen dioxide level in the air at Oxford Street than in the air samples taken in Hyde Park. From this data, the study reports a direct link between the severity of lung problems with the amount of pollution spewed by diesel vehicles.

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  • Eduardo Maio

    Everyone knows that 1 liter of diesel produces more CO2 then a liter of gas, not to mention all the other emissions that are far worse then CO2.

    But it looks like most europeans have a diesel fever, not sure why…

  • Jay L.

    Well, that has nothing to do with environment. In Europe, Diesel is taxed to a lesser extend than gasoline (It used to be the fuel for trucks and commercial vehicles). Further, Diesel provides quite good acceleration. This are sufficient reasons to go with Diesel. The typical European does not care about air pollution. So, in many European countries Diesel particle filters are not needed either.

  • Old Man Crowder

    Well, DUH!!

  • domboy

    First, I believe Maio is incorrect. The only emissions that are worse on a diesel engine is NOx. CO2 output is much lower than a comparable gasoline engine, if for no other reason than it is much more efficient.

    Second, Jay L. is correct that European emission regulations on diesels haven’t been as strict as in the US, but that is getting ready to change…

  • John Graber

    You mean I have to now take my diesel truck out of my living room! Glad I ran into this informative real life study!
    I hope there is soon a study on the danders of sticking a pencil into ones eyes.
    DO SOMETHING ALREADY!!

  • Bailes

    What a mockery of real emmsions studies, I like how there are only 2 studies one witth all diesel and one with no traffic, so how can they say it is worse than gasoline, if that’s all the better the brits can muster up I’m glad I live in the US

  • Collin

    I thinks this is a hint that Europe may one day soon be a strong market for Hybrids. Yea, this is a real dumb study. A big… Duh!!! I think many Europeans DO care about the Environment (Kyoto Protocol) but until recently Diesel has been the lesser evil. I am really looking forward to Lithium Ion Hybrids!

  • Collin

    I thinks this is a hint that Europe may one day soon be a strong market for Hybrids. Yea, this is a real dumb study. A big… Duh!!! I think many Europeans DO care about the Environment (Kyoto Protocol) but until recently Diesel has been the lesser evil. I am really looking forward to Lithium Ion Hybrids!

  • rezero

    What new here is actually evidence that biodiesel exhaust is safer than diesel Exhaust. Though how they rated apoptosis is questionable: if genetic damage is done to a cell and it does not undergo apoptosis that is a bad thing as it could lead to cancer.

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