Health Effects of Diesel

Benefits to Public Health

Reducing diesel emissions has significant public health benefits.  Emissions from diesel engines contribute to unhealthy levels of fine particles and ozone (or “smog”) and air toxics.  Fine particles have been associated with an increased risk of premature death, hospital admissions for heart and lung disease, increased adverse respiratory symptoms such as asthma, and other adverse health effects.  Long-term exposure to diesel exhaust may pose a lung cancer hazard to humans.

There are a number of federal programs designed to limit emissions from future new diesel engines through the application of advanced emission control technologies and ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. But even with these significant programs, it is imperative to address emissions from the fleet that is on the ground today as diesel engines often operate for 20-30 years. The good news is that cost-effective technologies and other strategies exist now to enable reductions from the in-use fleet (e.g., retrofits, cleaner fuels, and idle reduction technologies) and the Collaborative seeks to implement those solutions as soon as possible.


  1. Health Effects Institute. "Research on Diesel Exhaust and Other Particles", HEI Program Summary, October 2003.
  2. California Air Resources Board. "The Report on Diesel Exhaust", 22 April 1998.
  3. Jane Warren (Health Effects Institute). "Health Effects of Diesel Exhaust: An HEI Perspective", 2000.