The Dark Side of Diesel Exhaust
“Carbon particulate emissions and diesel exhaust are just some of the harmful by-products of an imperfect combustion process of fuel. These emissions can be a complex mixture of components such as dust particles, soil, chemicals, and soil. Emissions from diesel exhaust, specifically, are mainly made of ash, sulfates, silicates, and metallic abrasion particles.“
Emissions vary a lot in particle sizes and chemical compositions depending on factors like engine type, operating conditions, and fuel formulations. There is also a great difference between off-road and on-road engines with the former being an older, less efficient technology. Despite the decrease of particulate matter and emissions released by newer engines, recent data still suggests that there are still toxicologically relevant organic components that come from these systems.
The Issue on Particulate Emissions from Diesel Exhaust
Despite being regulated for years, it is only recently that concern about exhaust emissions from motor vehicles started to gain attention. Air quality, health, and the environment. These are three major factors that emissions negatively affect. Together with the rising of fuel prices and new laws mandating vital changes in the industry comes more attention on this issue. This article will discuss all about the reasons behind the fuss on particulate emissions.
The size of particulates determines its potential for causing health dilemmas. The EPA regulates PMs that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller since they can enter the human system by passing through the nose and throat.
The EPA has divided particle pollution into two types. Namely “inhalable coarse particles”–which are larger than 2.5 micrometers yet smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter… and “fine particles”, which are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller.
Particles that are smaller than 10 micrometers are the most dangerous of all because they can be easily introduced into the body and get into the bloodstream. Since they are composed of microscopic solids and/or liquid droplets, they can wreck serious havoc to the body when they seep into the lungs. Numerous scientific studies have already linked exposure to these emissions to a variety of health problems. The following below are just some examples:
- Premature death in people afflicted with lung and heart disease
- Aggravated asthma
- Decreased function of the lungs
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased respiratory symptoms
Short term exposure to high concentrations of diesel exhaust PM can also cause eye and nose irritation, dizziness, and headache. Prolonged exposure, on the other hand, can increase the chances of lung cancer, cardiovascular, respiratory, and cardiopulmonary diseases.
Besides affecting your health, particulate matter puts a blow on air quality and the environment as well. After emission from the tailpipe or exhaust stack, diesel exhaust (DE) undergoes some physical and chemical transformations as it is transported in the atmosphere. The atmospheric lifetime of DE can range from hours to days. Unfortunately, the toxicological effects of the transformation of diesel exhaust cannot be definitely pinpointed because some compounds in the original DE mixture are altered to more toxic forms while others are rendered to be less toxic.
Soil and Water Damage
Despite this, there is enough evidence to know how bad these emissions are to the environment. Particles in the air can be carried over long distances and settle on the ground or water. Once this happens, streams and lakes can turn acidic which may lead to nutrient imbalance on the coastal waters and large river basins. Nutrients in the soil will be depleted and crops and forests will be damaged. This, in turn, damages the diversity of ecosystems. All these also trigger the formation of acid rain.
Trees and other plants can be weakened by acid rain due to the limited nutrients that they get because of it. Acid rain, moreover, also triggers the release of substances that can be toxic to flora, like aluminum, into the soil. Worse, these harmful substances will also be washed away in a runoff until they end up in lakes, rivers, streams, and other bodies of water.
Fine particles of particulate matter are also one of the leading causes of haze in several parts of the United States. Just some of these are treasured wilderness areas and national parks. Haze develops when the PM in the air encounters sunlight and reduces the color and clarity of several areas especially during humid times.
Particulate emissions can also put a ‘coating’ on various stones and materials as well. With this comes the danger of monuments and statues becoming permanently damaged after prolonged exposure. PM triggers the development of acid rain which accelerates the decay of materials of buildings and paints. Important sculptures, statues, and buildings can be compromised because of this.
If you would like to greatly limit your diesel exhaust, please consider adding in a combustion catalyst to help reduce these harmful particulates.
About the Author
Automotive enthusiast, passionate about Jeeps, hot-rods, turbos, performance, efficiency, diesels, fuels, high performance oils, additives and anything with an engine.