SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Health Impacts of Diesel Pollution


transit_bus_exhaust.jpgDiesel pollution contains 40 of the toxics monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for air quality. It is a mixture of black carbon, toxic gases, and tiny particles, that when inhaled can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat as well as increases in asthma attacks, heart disease, lung disease, and other respiratory illnesses. Recent studies have now determined a link between particulate matter exposure and adult diabetes. Exposure to diesel pollution can also be attributed to an increased risk for cancer and premature death. In fact, according to the California Air Resources Board , “Diesel emissions are the #1 air toxics cancer risk in the United States.”


Everyone’s exposure to diesel pollution is different. However, certain populations suffer greater health risks and impacts. Those vulnerable populations include children, the elderly, as well as people already living with respiratory and heart illnesses. Exposure to diesel pollution is cumulative: the more we are exposed throughout our lifetimes, the higher our risks. It is never too late to prevent further exposure and reduce risks.

People working in industries that employ diesel engines, such as truckers, construction workers, railway workers and port workers are exposed to higher concentrations of diesel pollution and therefore experience higher risks for potential health problems. The health implications related to diesel pollution are a significant public health concern and must be addressed. The Clean Air Task Force has compiled a summary of occupational hazards of diesel pollution.

Use the Clean Air Task Force’s Diesel Soot Health Impacts Tool to find the health impacts in your city.

Related Publications

Reports from Clean Air Task Force:
Health Impacts of Diesel, Based on Data from the National Scale Air Toxics Assessment (NATA)

An Analysis of Diesel Air Pollution and Public Health in America (technical paper) and Diesel and Health in America: The Lingering Threat

For a comprehensive list of reports by CATF, visit the Diesel Clean Up Campaign website.

Other Publications
Association Between Fine Particulate Matter and Diabetes Prevalence in the U.S.

The Toxicity of Diesel Exhaust: Implications for Primary Care

Cut greenhouse gases = Saving lives

Report Links Vehicle Exhaust to Health Problems

Traffic-Related Air Pollution: A Critical Review of the Literature on Emissions, Exposure, and Health Effects

Lung Cancer in Railroad Workers Exposed to Diesel Exhaust

Cause –Specific Mortality in the Unionized Trucking Industry

Diesel Exhaust in the United States (PDF) U.S EPA