Diesel Exhaust

Diesel exhaust is a mixture of thousands of chemicals, including 1-nitropyrene (1-NP). These chemicals are released as gases or particles (such as black soot) from vehicles and machinery that run on diesel fuel. Vehicles that run on biodiesel fuel produce similar exhaust.

Fact Sheet

Diesel exhaust comes from:

  • On-road vehicles that run on diesel fuel, such as semi-trailer trucks, light-duty trucks, and some buses and passenger cars.
  • Diesel-powered freight and passenger trains, and cargo and cruise ships.
  • Heavy-duty equipment, such as bulldozers and tractors, used for construction, agriculture, landscaping, mining, and similar types of work.
  • Diesel-powered generators

Possible health concerns of diesel exhaust:

  • Can make asthma worse and contribute to other respiratory diseases, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • May harm the lungs and lower resistance to respiratory infections.
  • May make allergic reactions to dust, pollen, and other allergens worse.
  • Can make existing heart conditions worse.
  • Can increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to diesel exhaust:

  • When walking, riding a bike, or exercising outdoors, choose areas away from roadways whenever possible, or side streets with less traffic. Avoid busy highways and paths near train routes.
  • When in heavy traffic, keep vehicle windows closed and put the air on recirculate (look for this symbol or check your manual: Image of a vehicle air recirculation button ).
  • Always start and operate diesel engines in a well-ventilated area.
  • If you have a diesel car or truck, don’t idle inside garages, especially garages attached to your home.
  • Install backup and portable diesel-powered generators well away from your home, so that exhaust does not come in through open windows or doors.
  • If possible, use a high-efficiency filter in your home’s central heating and air system.
  • Consider buying a portable air cleaner (or “air purifier”) that can remove small particles from the air in your home (see below).
  • Because chemicals from diesel exhaust can collect in dust:
    • Wash your and your child’s hands often, especially before preparing or eating food.
    • Clean your floors regularly, using a wet mop or HEPA vacuum if possible, and use a damp cloth to dust.
  • Report diesel trucks in California if they are:
    • Idling where “No idling” signs are posted, or idling for more than five minutes.
    • Not following designated truck routes.
    Call 1-800-363-7664 or fill out the form at this link: www.arb.ca.gov/enf/complaints/icv.htm

Biomonitoring California Information

Documents, Presentations, and Publications: 

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