Diesel engine popularity has been increasing for decades thanks to their reliability and durability, as well as lower fuel costs. Diesel engines are used in many types of vehicles, machinery and heavy equipment. Various industries take advantage of diesel engines, such as transportation, farming, construction, mining and others. But diesel has one serious drawback and it is toxic diesel exhaust, harmful for health and environment.
There are thousands of gases and particles in diesel exhaust. Among them, there are more than 40 contaminants that cause cancer. The gases also include nitrogen oxides (NOx) that are one of the main causes of smog and sulfur dioxide that can lead to acid rain. Diesel exhaust’s solid component is particulate matter. There are particles that can be seen as they are large and dark they are also filtered by the respiratory system. But most of the particles are too small and they can get deep into the lungs and worsen health issues such as bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. Truck drivers and mechanics, workers at docks and toll collectors are all exposed to diesel exhaust on a daily basis. The exposure can immediately cause irritation of the eyes, throat, nose and lungs, as well as nausea, fatigue, dizziness, headaches and coughing. Regular exposure can lead to bronchitis, wheezing, emphysema, problems with lungs and heart, lung cancer and heart attacks.
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize risk for the environment and health. To lower the pollution risk, manufacturers install the Selective Catalytic Reduction system that can be found on newer models of trucks. This system uses Diesel Exhaust Fluid designed to lower NOx levels by spraying non-hazardous liquid solution (67.5% de-ionized water and 32.5% urea) into the exhaust system. It turns NOx emissions in water and hydrogen harmless to the environment. Trucks equipped with this system cannot run without diesel exhaust fluid. If such a truck is low on this liquid, the driver will see alerts on the dashboard before the truck slows down to 5mph before the tank with diesel exhaust fluid is refilled. The fluid is not dangerous to humans or animals and can be safely stored and handled. If it’s spilled, it can be absorbed using materials similar to sand. If it is spilled on the vehicle, it should be rinsed with water. Diesel exhaust fluid should not be ingested. If it is ingested, vomiting should not be induced. It is advised to call the doctor if there are any symptoms after ingestion.
To make diesel exhaust safer for health, diesel engines should be regularly inspected and well-maintained, and the exposure to the exhaust should be minimized. It is also a good idea to minimize idling of a truck. Moreover, many local laws all over the country suggest the same. Running diesel engines should also be prohibited indoors if vehicle exhaust hoses are not used. To reduce toxic emissions, there are various specialty cleaner-burning fuels, such as bio-diesel. There are also alternative fuels, for instance propane and natural gas.
If you work with a diesel engine or regularly exposed to diesel exhaust, remember to protect yourself and the environment.