Oluwarantimi Donatus: Diesel Exhaust Fumes Are Not Good For Your Health

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People who live in large cities like Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Ibadan are exposed to diesel exhaust in their everyday life, either through their occupation or ambient air. Toxic gasses emitted from diesel vehicles and generators contribute to thousands of unreported deaths in Nigeria yearly.

Many Nigerians use electricity generators of varying capacities as an alternative source of power due to the unreliability of electricity supply. Diesel engines from vehicles and electricity generators release a toxic mix of small particles (exhaust) called particulate matter. The particulate matter is created during the incomplete combustion of fuels such as diesel, petrol, natural gas, fuel oil, etc.

Exhaust from cars and generators account for the majority of urban air pollution. The exhaust of a vehicle or generator is expelled and released into the environment through the exhaust pipe or propelling nozzle.

Particulate Matter Found in Diesel Exhaust

  • Sulfates
  • Ammonium
  • Nitrates
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Condensed organic compounds, and even
  • Carcinogenic compounds and heavy metals such as arsenic, selenium, cadmium and zinc.

Health Effects of Diesel Exhausts

Though the diesel exhaust varies in sizes, they are mostly ultrafine particulates which are small enough to penetrate the cells of the lungs. These particulates cause a lot of effects to human health. Particulate matter irritates the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses and even premature death. They also hurt the respiratory system, causing coughing, choking, reduced lung capacity and asthma. Research has shown that exposure to high levels of diesel exhausts causes cardiovascular diseases, lung tumors and cancer

Environmental Impacts of Diesel Exhaust

Diesel engines in cars or generators release much particulate matter directly into the air and they transform into “secondary” particulates in the atmosphere. They affect the environment by causing global warming, acid rain, climate mitigation, loss of agricultural production, and they damage ecosystems, thereby harming human health.

According to the study published in the Nature journal, diesel vehicles, particularly buses, lorries and heavy-duty vehicles around the world, produce 4.5 million tonnes more diesel exhaust than they should under international emission standards.

Solutions to Diesel Exhaust Pollution

  • Cleaner Fuels – The government should adopt more stringent fuel standards to reduce the amount of sulfur allowed in diesel fuel. Lower sulfur diesel fuel allows the use of advanced emission control technologies, which when combined, can reduce emissions significantly.
  • Emission control equipment – Cars, buses, trucks, trains should all have equipment that can control the emission of diesel exhaust like a catalytic converter which will help vehicles to manage the discharge of diesel exhaust from the propelling nozzle.
  • The use of specialized exhaust filters – Vehicles with poor exhaust pipes or nozzles should be eliminated from all highways and streets to reduce the effect of diesel exhaust fumes that are released into the environment, and people should be advised to use specialized exhaust filters.
  • Encourage better engine design – Manufacturers of automobiles should build better engines that can undergo complete combustion of fuels.
  • Buying/replacing older vehicles – Scrap heaps should be replaced with better ones or to replace old cars with cleaner vehicles. The importation of already used automobiles from the western world to Nigeria should be reduced. This will help to reduce the amount of emission of exhausts that are being spewed to the air.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in places like hospitals, markets, schools and offices.
  • The regulatory body responsible for the control of emission of exhaust gas on the road and environment should put in place stringent rules for automobile users to obey to avert the effect of exhaust fumes on human health. An automobile that lacks proper emission control equipment should be banned from plying the highway and streets.
  • Electricity generators should not be placed in the room or closer to the living rooms, and the exhaust pipe should always be directed away from the room.

Particulate matter hurts the environment and human health. In fact, they are so bad for the environment and our health that it accounts for over one-quarter of the total hazardous pollution present in the air.

Summarily, it’s pretty evident that diesel exhaust fumes, regardless of whether they come from a small car, large lorries, generators, or a giant manufacturing plant, are doing some severe damage not just to our health, but to the whole environment. It’s wise, therefore, that we do our best to limit our emissions of these gasses as much as possible.

 

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