Diesel engines also contribute to indoor air pollution

An exposure to diesel engine emission significantly increases the risk of lung cancer. WHO (World Health Organization) has classified diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEEs) as carcinogenic to humans.
In Europe, the Institute of Occupational Medicine has estimated that there may be more than 3.6 million workers exposed to diesel engine exhaust emissions above the background levels found in our cities.

Moteurs diesel

Did you know?

  • In Tokyo, diesel has completely disappeared.
  • In Europe, approximately 100,000 deaths per year are related to indoor air pollution (Source: WHO).
  • In China, the cost of the health impact of air pollution was about USD 1.4 trillion in 2010, and about USD 0.5 trillion in India. (Source: OECD)
  • Outdoor pollution are different seasonally, winter is dominated by carbon dioxide and particles and summer by ozone O3.

Diesel engines exhaust emissions (DEEEs)

Diesel engines are still recognized more favorable to the climate than petrol engines as it produce less carbon monoxide (CO2). However, it emits three times more nitrogen dioxide (NO2) oxides of nitrogen, aldehydes and particulate matter than gasoline engines. NO2 is very irritating for the bronchi and dangerous for asthmatics person and people with high cardiovascular risk.
Petrol engine has catalysts that can significantly reduce pollutants, unlike diesel engine. Although particle filters are becoming increasingly usual in diesel vehicles. However, catalysts and particle filters can reduce more the size of particles than the quantity. Size of ultra-fine particles is less than 0.5 microns, which could penetrate deeper pulmonary alveoli.

In short, diesel engine has less impact on global warming than the petrol engine, but produces more fine particles dangerous to health.


In fact, reduction of diesel engines does not necessarily mean the end of the city pollution. Petrol direct injection engines, technology in many recent cars, produce sometimes finer and more particles than diesel engine.
Road traffic is a major part of air pollution in urban areas. It can represent over 50% of particles emissions in large city like Paris (Source ADEME 2014). In London, traffic is responsible for 99 per cent of carbon monoxide, 76 per cent of nitrogen oxides and 90 per cent of hydrocarbons. Heating systems and industrial emissions also are significant part of particulate emissions. Globally, more than 3 million people die prematurely each year from exposure to air pollution, according to the WHO.

Vehicles, especially with diesel engines, are not only reason of urban air quality problems.

What are effects of fine particles on human organism?

The smaller the particles, the more dangerous they are to our health, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream.
Health consequences:

  • Short-term exposures to particles can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks, respiratory infections acute bronchitis, and may also increase susceptibility.
  • Long term exposures: Particles can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream reduced lung function and the development of chronic bronchitis and even increased risk of cancer, etc.

Diesel engines emissions, also in indoor air.

We are more or less exposed to pollution particles, according to our residence. Habitations close to a high traffic road will be more polluted.

Outside pollutants can penetrate inside the house by system of ventilation and infiltration (windows, doors, fireplaces, etc.). A study conducted by the CSTB (Scientific and Technical Building Center of France) shows that the carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen widely penetrating residential habitation (80% to 100%). 20% of ozone and 80% of the fine particles and black smoke enter inside house.
That's why it may be beneficial to have an efficient air purifier against fine particles which come from outside and also from inside. Especially for sensitive people who have respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis and chronic rhinitis, etc.
Asthmatics people: Discover asthma’s aggravating factors in our article: Why air ionisers are worth a try to fight asthma?