Occupational Diesel Exhaust Hazards

What Is Diesel Exhaust?

Diesel exhaust is produced by the burning of diesel fuel. The exhaust is a mixture of gases, vapours, aerosols, and particulate substances. Diesel exhaust can sometimes be visible as puff of black smoke when you see a diesel engine started or revved. But frequently these emissions are no visible.  

Composition and Quantity of Diesel Exhaust Emission

  • The quantity and composition of diesel engine exhaust emissions vary depending on: 
  • The type of engine 
  • The composition of the fuel 
  • Maintenance and tuning 
  • The engine temperature 
  • The workload 
  • And even the outdoor temperature as cold temperatures keep exhaust at ground level and in the workers breathing zone.

Why Is Diesel Exhaust Harmful?

Inhalation is the most common route of exposure for diesel engine exhaust; breathing in air that contains the diesel particulate matter. The fine and ultra fine particles can avoid many of the human respiratory system’s defense mechanisms and enter deeply into the lung. Workers who are in the area of exhaust from a diesel exhaust pipe may notice soot on their faces.

How Does Diesel Exhaust Harm My Body?

Short-Term Diesel Exhaust Exposure

Short term exposure can cause coughing and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract. As well as a mild headache.  

Breathing in diesel exhaust can cause lung irritation and cause an allergic reaction causing asthma. It can also make pre-existing asthma worse.  

Diesel engine exhaust is classified by the the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), as a Group 1 carcinogen to humans.

Long-Term Diesel Exhaust Exposure

Long term exposure to diesel exhaust emissions increases the risk for lung cancer and possibly bladder cancer. 

Repeated exposure to diesel exhaust can also lead to chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.

Who Needs To Be Concerned About Diesel Exhaust Hazards in the Workplace?

People who may be at risk include workplaces where diesel powered vehicles are used for example, locomotives, buses, trucks, and construction vehicles.  

Workspaces where diesel exhaust can accumulate, such as warehouses, ferries/ships, garages, loading zones, fire stations, mines, or places where diesel generators are used.  

Some occupations work in areas where exhaust levels are high or can accumulate, such as police officers, customs officers, drivers of diesel vehicles, airline ground crew, farm workers, dock workers and miners. 

How to Mitigate Diesel Exhaust Hazards in the Workplace? 

If your occupation is listed above, it is important that your workplace has a diesel exhaust exposure control plan in place to prevent the short-term and long-term effects of exposure. Contact Chemscape Safety Technologies today to learn more about how we can help you develop customized exposure control plans for your business. 


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