Diesel Engine Pollution – What is it and what does it do ?

Some Simple Statistics: 

The waste product of a diesel engine, pumped out through the exhaust pipe contains high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and atmospheric particulate matter (called PM for short).

Particulate Matter is further broken down into two types of PM for pollution measures and statistics – PM10 and PM2.5 based on particle size. PM10 particles are larger than PM2.5 particles. PM2.5 are thought to be even more dangerous than PM10 particles, and are recorded less frequently than PM10 particles by pollution sensors. Newer sensors also monitor PM2.5 levels.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed both these pollutants are detrimental to our health causing respiratory problems and cancer:

PM’s are tiny pieces of solid or liquid matter associated with the Earth’s atmosphere. Some PM’s come from natural occurances (volcanoes, dust storms, fires) others are man made. PM’s vary greatly in size. PM’s given out by a diesel engine are so small they are able to penetrate deep into the lungs and because of their rough surfaces they bind easily with other toxins, so you’re breathing in more toxins along with them.

The International Research

CIRC or IRSN, based in Lyon rates pollution as to whether it causes cancer or not.

  • Group 1: carcinogenic to humans.
  • Group 2A: probably carcinogenic to humans.
  • Group 2B: possibly carcinogenic to humans
They have rated the particles given out by diesel engine as Group 1 – definitely carcinogenic to humans.

Air pollution in large  cities is blamed for premature deaths, ailments from asthma to heart disease and increased health costs.

Diesel fuel, which emits much more of some of these pollutants, has been taxed less than gasoline for decades in France as successive governments sought to appease truckers and farmers.

Car manufacturers have in 2015 been found to have lied about their emissions from diesel engines. Volkswagen and others put in computer controls so that the cars seemed to produce less pollution when they were at a test facility and then produced much more pollution when in actual use. These “clean diesel” vehicles are actually emitting many times more pollutants than should be allowed by regulatory standards and are dirtier than ever.

Latest research connects Diesel exhaust and asthma.

Diesel exhaust and diabetes is also connected with 20-30% higher rates of type 2 diabetes found in people who live in close proximity to motorways. 

New research conducted in 10 European cities estimates that 14% of chronic childhood asthma is due to exposure to traffic pollution near busy roads (children aged 0 to 17). This is comparable to the effect of passive smoking (between 4% and 18% of asthma cases in children are linked to passive smoking).

Until now, automotive engine pollution was assumed to only trigger asthma symptoms, rather than be a root cause of chronic asthma caused by the specific pollutants found near heavily used roads along which many Europeans live.

This is the first time that researchers have estimated the percentage of cases that might *not* have occurred if Europeans had not been exposed to road traffic pollution. Lead author, Dr Laura Perez said: “We must consider these results to improve policy making and urban planning.” We also very much need policies to be improved in semi-rural areas burdened with heavy traffic, as is the case with our valley and various motorway corridors in Haute-Savoie.

Chamonix Pollution Rap

We would be amiss if we did not point out this clever but all too accurate send up of the political situation with pollution in the Chamonix Valley. Enjoy. Then please, do act !

Some coverage of this rap in local press –
Le Dauphiné Libéré

France 3

Pollution Alert in Chamonix

Report (in French only) on the pollution alert in Paris and Chamonix, on French news “12:45” on channel M6