Published on April 15th, 2016 | by Cynthia Shahan
How Much Are We Exposed To Diesel Pollution? Inhaled PAHs Directly Damage DNA In Cells Of Our Lungs
Originally published on CleanTechnica.
More and more, comprehensive scientific reports warn us of the dangers of diesel pollution. How much are we exposed to diesel each day? Do we want to know?
Tim Johns for BBC measured his exposure in daily environments — transit, home, and work. What did these situations reflect regarding airborne pollutants (that he breathes)? Compromised immune systems start with compromised lungs. It is my opinion we are all suffering as pollutants from the air enter our lungs and lower immune and respiratory function. I am not alone in these concerns: the World Health Organization reclassified diesel pollution as a “definite carcinogen” in 2012 — primarily causing lung and to some extent bladder cancer.
Being a healthcare provider, I believe fossil fuels are making us sick. It naturally follows that reading health studies leads one to become an EV advocate and driver — or bicyclist/pedestrian (other conscientious choices). Every physician and healthcare provider should drive an electric car, bicycle, and/or walk. We advocate nutritious fresh food and exercise — we need to support clean-air vehicles. UK-funded carcinogen expert from King’s College London, Professor David Phillips, provides some details and perspective:
“When diesel burns inside an engine it releases two potentially cancer-causing things: microscopic soot particles, and chemicals called ‘polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons’, or PAHs. According to Phillips, there are three possible ways these can cause cancer: ‘Firstly, inhaled PAHs could directly damage the DNA in the cells of our lungs – leading to cancer.’”
Richard Branson and the B Team (the end of business as usual) voiced the belief that humankind will look back on this dirty, air-polluting automobile culture as they now do second-hand cigarette smoke (which is now banned many places). For those of us who recognize the threat and want to limit exposure to diesel fumes, how can we do that? Whether we drive electric or bicycle, we are surrounded by other vehicles spewing fumes. Going on, Phillips states:
“Secondly, the soot particles can get lodged deep inside the lungs, causing long-term inflammation, and thirdly, this can increase the rate at which cells divide. So if any nearby lung cells pick up random mutations, this inflammation could, theoretically, make them more likely to grow and spread.”
Would that latest virus be as compromising if one’s immune system was not down already from air pollutants? I think not. In the UK, a recent study blames air pollution for 40,000 early deaths every year. In the same study, “researchers cited diesel as the major villain.” And why, when there is a solution? It is not just the time you lose stuck in traffic — slow-moving traffic (as is often found in cities) is about the worse for diesel fumes. (Thank you to the researchers at King’s College for this information).
BBC’s Tim Johns, who bicycles and uses mass transit to work every day, probes the issue in his life:
“Waiting for my train one day, standing in the concourse, it occurred to me that there seemed to be rather a lot of fumes coming from the idling diesel engines.
How much diesel pollution was I breathing in?
I decided to undertake an experiment for The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 to find out how much I was being exposed to on a daily basis, in different locations and on different modes of transport.”
With a portable device to monitor pollution, he began. The device measured black carbon particles from the combustion of diesel fuel. High readings meant poor air quality and a poor-for-health environment.
John’s continues relating the horrifying specifics of underground particulates in the air in London:
There’s one other astonishing measurement I recorded which I haven’t mentioned yet. On the London Underground, my device gave me a reading of 77.8.
But this wasn’t caused by diesel fumes — other particles found underground can skew the reading.
“The device measured ‘black particles,’ which, above ground would primarily be black carbon from diesel,” says Barratt., “But below ground, most of it is oxidised iron coming from the tracks. It’s well-known that the Tube is a dusty environment, but what is not well known is how toxic the particular kind of particles that we breathe while travelling underground are.”
This study calls to light a disturbing problem for the urbanite who does have a lighter footprint.
Similar studies should be done in New York subways and the other principal cities to incite better protections for the passengers. If not by removing the toxic particles, at least, municipalities might establish air filtering systems in the underground. Is this asking too much? The US bans street drugs and other forms of abusive substances — why not ban carcinogenic pollutants? Why not ask more of air quality for the masses who travel underground?
The full story from Tim Johns is here.