Uncategorized no image

Published on March 27th, 2008 | by Clayton

25

How Diesel Exhaust Affects Your Brain

exhaust, smoke, diesel, pollution, emissions, nanoparticlesAs if it wasn’t bad enough that particulate matter from diesel exhaust causes a range of respiratory problems including 15,000 premature deaths each year, new research shows that even short-term exposure to nanoparticles found in diesel fumes can affect brain function.

Nanoparticles can travel to the brain via the olfactory nerve, where they could cause an oxidative stress response in the region of the brain critical to information processing.

Researchers placed subjects in a room with either clean air or diesel fumes (similar to a busy street), and used a electro- encephalograph (EEG) to measure brain response. Subjects breathing the sooty air showed a stress response in the brain’s cortex within 30 minutes, which continued even after they left the room.

The researchers hypothesize that the effects of diesel exhaust could be caused by nanoparticles slowly penetrating the brain or affecting brain signaling. Oxidative stress has also been linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and long-term exposure to these fumes conceivably could decrease cognitive function, they write.

This is bad news for an especially susceptible population—children—who spend significant amounts of time in diesel buses. According to the EPA, twenty-four million children ride in diesel school buses each day, amounting to about one half-hour per child. Research has also shown that the level of diesel exhaust inside school buses is substantially higher than outside. School districts and municipalities can mitigate this issue by retrofitting buses with newer emissions control devices, avoiding unnecessary idling, replacing the oldest buses, and using biodiesel to reduce particulate emissions.

Luckily for the rest of us, the US has the highest emissions standards in the world for passenger cars, and a comparatively low use of diesel vehicles. The new clean diesels on the market now do not produce the same dirty exhaust as older models.

But until our nation’s fleets get upgraded, it’s going to irritate me even more when a garbage truck rolls by.

[social_buttons] Related Posts:

How Biodiesel Fuel-Cells Could Power The Future (And Your Car)

A Biodiesel Prius? VW To Release 69.9 MPG Diesel Hybrid

6 Ways To Find And Use Biodiesel Anywhere

Source: ES&T (Mar. 26, 2008): Your brain on diesel fumes

Photo Credit




Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.



  • http://www.greencarblog.com Marcel Pamphile

    IMHO using Diesel vehicles should be illegal in residential areas.

  • http://www.greencarblog.com Marcel Pamphile

    IMHO using Diesel vehicles should be illegal in residential areas.

  • http://n/a beth

    I can’t help but wonder if there is a secondary cause aggravating this effect.

    Many people work in the marine industry, and the rate of alzheimer’s and parkinson’s is much lower than the national average, amongst retirees. The reason this is kind of significant is because these people are exposed to close range diesel fumes for 24 hours at a time, and often for months straight.

    It seems that the lung cancer rate is much lower also – which which I have only heard of one case of lung cancer in an industry where the great majority of them smoke, in addition to being in close proximity to constant diesel fumes.

    So I can’t help but wonder if there is a secondary factor that is causing such severe problems in younger children that ride the bus and what have you.

    At the same time – I would love it if they could make marine diesel run cleaner, just for the sake of the people who work it.

  • Matt

    “Luckily for the rest of us, the US has the highest emissions standards in the world for passenger cars, and a comparatively low use of diesel vehicles.”

    Er… it seems like at least 1/3 to 1/2 of all vehicles on the road here in the US are SUV’s right?

    And aren’t many of them exempt from emission standards?

    So that statement probably doesn’t hold true for everyone who fits into “the rest of us”.

    We live opposite a school bus depot and are moving specifically because the fumes are so bad. There are two schools next to the depot, imagine what those poor kids breathe in day after day…

  • Matt

    “Luckily for the rest of us, the US has the highest emissions standards in the world for passenger cars, and a comparatively low use of diesel vehicles.”

    Er… it seems like at least 1/3 to 1/2 of all vehicles on the road here in the US are SUV’s right?

    And aren’t many of them exempt from emission standards?

    So that statement probably doesn’t hold true for everyone who fits into “the rest of us”.

    We live opposite a school bus depot and are moving specifically because the fumes are so bad. There are two schools next to the depot, imagine what those poor kids breathe in day after day…

  • noway

    I consider myself a green person, but mostly I am a scientist. I can’t believe that this HYPOTHESIS has been turned into a news article. These researchers have found that your nose can cause stress in the brain and then make a leap to NANOPARTICLES??? Shine a light in someones eyes – you will induce stress. Play loud music and you will induce stress. Put someones hands on a heated stove – you will induce stress. Stress is a protective measure that the body puts itself into to prevent the body from doing further damage. It is part of the fight or flight mechanism.

    Nothing in the article shows that NANOPARTICLES have anything to do with the stress levels. The proper experiment is not clean air and diesel fumes. It is Diesel fumes with and without nanoparticles. This is outright BS science and worthless reporting.

    A HYPOTHESIS is not a conclusion – is is the first step in the scientific method not the last.

  • noway

    I consider myself a green person, but mostly I am a scientist. I can’t believe that this HYPOTHESIS has been turned into a news article. These researchers have found that your nose can cause stress in the brain and then make a leap to NANOPARTICLES??? Shine a light in someones eyes – you will induce stress. Play loud music and you will induce stress. Put someones hands on a heated stove – you will induce stress. Stress is a protective measure that the body puts itself into to prevent the body from doing further damage. It is part of the fight or flight mechanism.

    Nothing in the article shows that NANOPARTICLES have anything to do with the stress levels. The proper experiment is not clean air and diesel fumes. It is Diesel fumes with and without nanoparticles. This is outright BS science and worthless reporting.

    A HYPOTHESIS is not a conclusion – is is the first step in the scientific method not the last.

  • Craig

    This article is “Out To Lunch” Check the facts!

    Obviously the U.S. Govt and the Auto Industry have the public duped about diesel emissions….If you do your homework (research) you will find that gasoline is mush LESS safe than diesel.

    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=15088283

  • Craig

    This article is “Out To Lunch” Check the facts!

    Obviously the U.S. Govt and the Auto Industry have the public duped about diesel emissions….If you do your homework (research) you will find that gasoline is mush LESS safe than diesel.

    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=15088283

  • noway

    Additionally, you say, ” new research shows that even short-term exposure to nanoparticles found in diesel fumes can affect brain function.”

    The link just before your statement, makes no such conclusion. You are a reprehensible journalist. You can’t even quote someone else properly. Their second sentence says,”A new study has found that breathing the fumes even for short periods can trigger a stress response in the brain.”

    Nothing about nano particles. The researchers even continue to say that,”The researchers plan to follow up with studies that isolate the effects of different diesel exhaust components.” As in, they don’t know if it is the particles or something else in the diesel fumes. They admit that there is more work to make a conclusion about soot and nanoparticles.

  • noway

    Additionally, you say, ” new research shows that even short-term exposure to nanoparticles found in diesel fumes can affect brain function.”

    The link just before your statement, makes no such conclusion. You are a reprehensible journalist. You can’t even quote someone else properly. Their second sentence says,”A new study has found that breathing the fumes even for short periods can trigger a stress response in the brain.”

    Nothing about nano particles. The researchers even continue to say that,”The researchers plan to follow up with studies that isolate the effects of different diesel exhaust components.” As in, they don’t know if it is the particles or something else in the diesel fumes. They admit that there is more work to make a conclusion about soot and nanoparticles.

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    Wow, never expected this kind of response to this topic. Let me try and sort things out here:

    beth: You may be forgetting that children are WAY more susceptible to environmental toxins than adults. Exposure at young ages can sometimes set up susceptibility to things later on.

    Matt: When I said highest emissions standards in the world, I was talking about diesel emissions standards (that’s what the post is about). There are no diesel SUVs in the US that I’m aware of. Ever been to a Latin-American city? Usually, it’s filled with blueish diesel smoke. Even Europe has NOx emissions standards that are six-times lower than the US.

    Craig: you might want to try reading the abstract again. This study wasn’t even looking at the brain, but one type of carcinogen (of many) binding to lung surface cells. It says: “We conclude that the genotoxicity of diesel fuel is based on higher particulate emission rates compared to gasoline emission and although the concentration of PAH compounds was higher in diesel particulate extracts, DNA binding by the gasoline particulate-bound PAH compounds was more pronounced than that by the diesel particulate-bound PAH compounds.”

    All that says is that both diesel and gasoline PAH emissions are bad. No matter what, diesel produces more particulates than gasoline.

    noway: I’m not sure what kind of scientist you are, but they were talking about oxidative-stress in a region of the brain, not ‘stress’ like what happens when you have to speak in public.

    The only thing you’re right about is placing the word ‘may’ before that conclusion, which I just did. But that came from Environmental Science & Technology:

    “Nanoparticles such as those in diesel exhaust can cause inflammation and an imbalance in highly reactive forms of oxygen, a condition called oxidative stress, in parts of the body where they land after being inhaled. The researchers hypothesize that the effects of diesel exhaust could be caused by nanoparticles slowly penetrating the brain or affecting brain signaling.”

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    Wow, never expected this kind of response to this topic. Let me try and sort things out here:

    beth: You may be forgetting that children are WAY more susceptible to environmental toxins than adults. Exposure at young ages can sometimes set up susceptibility to things later on.

    Matt: When I said highest emissions standards in the world, I was talking about diesel emissions standards (that’s what the post is about). There are no diesel SUVs in the US that I’m aware of. Ever been to a Latin-American city? Usually, it’s filled with blueish diesel smoke. Even Europe has NOx emissions standards that are six-times lower than the US.

    Craig: you might want to try reading the abstract again. This study wasn’t even looking at the brain, but one type of carcinogen (of many) binding to lung surface cells. It says: “We conclude that the genotoxicity of diesel fuel is based on higher particulate emission rates compared to gasoline emission and although the concentration of PAH compounds was higher in diesel particulate extracts, DNA binding by the gasoline particulate-bound PAH compounds was more pronounced than that by the diesel particulate-bound PAH compounds.”

    All that says is that both diesel and gasoline PAH emissions are bad. No matter what, diesel produces more particulates than gasoline.

    noway: I’m not sure what kind of scientist you are, but they were talking about oxidative-stress in a region of the brain, not ‘stress’ like what happens when you have to speak in public.

    The only thing you’re right about is placing the word ‘may’ before that conclusion, which I just did. But that came from Environmental Science & Technology:

    “Nanoparticles such as those in diesel exhaust can cause inflammation and an imbalance in highly reactive forms of oxygen, a condition called oxidative stress, in parts of the body where they land after being inhaled. The researchers hypothesize that the effects of diesel exhaust could be caused by nanoparticles slowly penetrating the brain or affecting brain signaling.”

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    News update: The EPA just approved $50 million in grant money for clean-diesel programs in the US:

    http://newsblaze.com/story/20080402083534tsop.nb/newsblaze/TOPSTORY/Top-Stories.html

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    News update: The EPA just approved $50 million in grant money for clean-diesel programs in the US:

    http://newsblaze.com/story/20080402083534tsop.nb/newsblaze/TOPSTORY/Top-Stories.html

  • Pingback: Earth Day 2008: Thoughts From Gas 2.0 : Gas 2.0

  • Pingback: What is more toxic - gasoline or gasoline exhaust? - Science Forums

  • Pingback: Biodiesel Mythbuster 2.0: Twenty-Two Biodiesel Myths Dispelled : Gas 2.0

  • Ryan

    Has anyone heard of testing instruments that can be used to determine specific kinds of diesel pollutants? In reference to testing the air in close relation to highways? Thanks.

  • Ryan

    Has anyone heard of testing instruments that can be used to determine specific kinds of diesel pollutants? In reference to testing the air in close relation to highways? Thanks.

  • RANDY

    WELL UNLIKE THE REST OF YOU TREE HUGGING FOOLS I PREFER DIESEL OVER GASOLINE ANYDAY INFACT I USE ONE AS MY MAIN SOURCE OF TRANSPORTATION HERES A COUPLE OF GOOD REASONS WHY. ONE,”MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK” I GOTTA PAY A LITTLE MORE FOR FUEL BUT IVE GOT A LOT MORE POWER. TWO, IT BURNS CLEANER THEREFOR CREATING LESS CARBONDIOXIDE THAT CAUSES “GLOBAL WARMING” AND THREE ITS JUST FUN TO DRIVE. SO QUITE FRANKLY I DONT CARE WHAT YOU THINK OR EVEN IF YOU DECIDE TO PUBLISH THIS IM STILL GONNA DRIVE MY TRUCK LOUD AND PROUD

    GIT-R-DONE

  • RANDY

    WELL UNLIKE THE REST OF YOU TREE HUGGING FOOLS I PREFER DIESEL OVER GASOLINE ANYDAY INFACT I USE ONE AS MY MAIN SOURCE OF TRANSPORTATION HERES A COUPLE OF GOOD REASONS WHY. ONE,”MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK” I GOTTA PAY A LITTLE MORE FOR FUEL BUT IVE GOT A LOT MORE POWER. TWO, IT BURNS CLEANER THEREFOR CREATING LESS CARBONDIOXIDE THAT CAUSES “GLOBAL WARMING” AND THREE ITS JUST FUN TO DRIVE. SO QUITE FRANKLY I DONT CARE WHAT YOU THINK OR EVEN IF YOU DECIDE TO PUBLISH THIS IM STILL GONNA DRIVE MY TRUCK LOUD AND PROUD

    GIT-R-DONE

  • Pingback: Cost Of Fueling With Electricity Is 3 Times Cheaper! (Or Even Much More...) | CleanTechnica

  • Pingback: Swiss Alps EV Rally -- The World Advanced Vehicle Expedition (WAVE) | CleanTechnica

  • Pingback: No Gas Fumes, & Even Toddlers Can Do It | CleanTechnica

Back to Top ↑