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I have been writing articles on topics related to our health for a number of years and in Channel I keep you up to date on ways in which we might improve our health by becoming more aware of the many options that are available to us.

Diesel Particulates A Potential Threat To Our Health

John Appleton

As I see it - by John Appleton I was out on one of my ‘power walks' one evening and an older 4WD slowed at one of the speed bumps before powering away and delivering a cloud of diesel smoke that I was unable to avoid despite holding my breath for as long as I could. Over recent years I have seen this happen more and more and I am very concerned about what it could mean for my own health and that of many New Zealanders who live in urban areas. Internationally there is a lot being said about diesel particulates from cars trucks and machinery. With lung cancer in New Zealand being our biggest killer in terms of cancer (1,600 deaths annually) we have every reason to be concerned. The very conservative American Cancer Society and the British Cancer Research Society have both come out and said that diesel exhaust fumes have been conclusively linked to lung cancer. Scientists at the International Agency for research on cancer (part of the World Health Organisation) say that diesel exhaust is a definite carcinogen in the highest possible category. A headline in the British Daily Mail reads “Diesel Exhaust fumes are a major cancer risk and as deadly as asbestos and mustard gas, says World Health Organisation”.

…all particulates from diesel engines are harmful; even the latest so-called “clean” diesels are not necessarily safe because the particles are so small they can bypass the lung’s natural defences. In New Zealand we have allowed the importation of thousands of cheap second hand diesel vehicles that would not have been allowed on the road if appropriate emissions regulations were in place. No one seems to care and with 30,000 more people adding to Auckland’s population every year the problem will continue to grow. How long will it take before ‘we’ wake up and take action? Four of the world’s biggest cities - Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City - are to ban diesel vehicles from their centres within the next decade. Tokyo banned ‘dirty’ diesels from its streets in 2000 unless they could meet strict emission standards. How many of these discarded vehicles ended up in New Zealand? Diesel exhaust is made up of two main parts gases and soot (particles). Each of these in turn is made up of many different


Issue 74 - March 2017

substances. The soot is made up of microscopic particles known as PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) less than one fifth the thickness of a human hair and these can be deposited deep within the lungs where they can mutate the DNA over time. Dr Saiful Bari, programme director school of engineering University of South Australia, an expert on diesel fuels, is emphatic about the dangers of diesel emissions for the general public. He says “all particulates from diesel engines are harmful; even the latest so-called “clean” diesels are not necessarily safe because the particles are so small they can bypass the lung’s natural defences. Diesel engines have become very popular as they were seen as being ‘greener’ due to their Co2 output being significantly less than that of petrol engines. While this may be so no one seems to have taken into account the cost in terms of our health. While the news headlines may appear to be alarmist, I recall how many years passed before the dangers of passive smoking were officially recognised. Surely we need to think about the children who are exposed to vehicle emissions as they walk to and from school. How will they cope with very considerable exposure over many years? As I see it without delay we need to introduce strict emission controls and agree on an age limit for diesel vehicles that can be imported. As to what we can do to protect ourselves we should try to avoid main roads when walking and ensure that the airconditioning in the car is switched to recirculating when driving. We should ensure that our Vitamin D level is optimal and take Vitamin C in therapeutic doses together with probiotics in order to maintain immune function. Children should be protected as much as possible. John Appleton, 09 489 9362,,

Channel Magazine March 2017  
Channel Magazine March 2017