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Diesel exhaust is produced by the combustion (burning) of diesel fuel. The exhaust is a complex mixture of gases, vapours, aerosols, and particulate substances. The exact nature of the exhaust depends on a number of factors including the type of engine, how well serviced/maintained the engine is, type of fuel, speed and load on the engine, and emission control systems.
Diesel exhaust may contain:
Short term exposure to diesel exhaust can cause coughing, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract. Breathing in diesel exhaust can cause lung irritation and/or an allergic reaction causing asthma (wheezing and difficult breathing), or making pre-existing asthma worse.
Very high levels can lead to asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Long term exposure may lead to serious health effects. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), determining that exposure to diesel exhaust emissions increases the risk for lung cancer and possibly bladder cancer.
The most common way individuals are exposed is by breathing air that contains the diesel particulate matter. The fine and ultra fine particles are respirable, which means that the particles can avoid many of the human respiratory system defense mechanisms and enter deeply into the lung.
People may be at risk:
Conduct a risk assessment to determine the health risks from exposure, and to identify the necessary steps needed to control these risks. See the OSH Answers for more information on how to do a risk assessment.
Questions to investigate include:
This checklist is not complete. Be sure to investigate all relevant issues for your workplace or situation.
Various measures can help lower exposure to diesel exhaust. Workplaces may investigate the measures that work best in their situation. Control measures may include:
Add a badge to your website or intranet so your workers can quickly find answers to their health and safety questions.
Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.