Does Burning Diesel Produce Carbon Monoxide?

The principal source of carbon monoxide exposure in the workplace is the internal combustion engine. Workers exposed to gasoline, diesel, or other fossil fuel-powered buses, trains, trucks, vehicles, forklifts, compressors, and other equipment may be at danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. While diesel fuel combustion engines emit less carbon monoxide than gasoline engines, given enough time in an enclosed environment, these emissions can still produce fatal levels of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is found in diesel exhaust gases in amounts ranging from 2% to 12%.

Are diesel exhaust fumes toxic?

Long-term exposure to diesel exhaust particles, in fact, carries the highest cancer risk of any toxic air contaminant assessed by the OEHHA. Coughs, headaches, lightheadedness, and nausea can all be caused by diesel pollution, which irritates the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.

What is produced when diesel burns?

Like other internal combustion engines, a diesel engine turns chemical energy in the fuel into mechanical power. Diesel fuel is a blend of hydrocarbons that would produce solely carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor in a perfect combustion process (H2O). CO2, H2O, and the unused fraction of engine charge air make up the majority of diesel exhaust gases. These gases’ volumetric concentrations in diesel exhaust commonly fall into the following ranges:

The concentrations vary depending on the engine load, with CO2 and H2O content rising and O2 content falling as the engine load rises. With the exception of CO2, which has greenhouse gas qualities, none of these major diesel emissions are harmful to human health or the environment.

Diesel emissions also contain toxins that can be harmful to one’s health and/or the environment. The majority of these pollutants come from non-ideal combustion processes like incomplete fuel combustion, reactions between mixture components at high temperatures and pressures, combustion of engine lubricating oil and oil additives, and combustion of non-hydrocarbon components of diesel fuel like sulfur compounds and fuel additives. Unburned hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter are all examples of common contaminants (PM). The total concentration of contaminants in diesel exhaust gases is normally in the tenths of one percent range, as shown in Figure 1. Significantly lower, “Modern diesel engines with emission aftertreatment systems like NOx reduction catalysts and particle filters emit “near-zero” levels of pollutants.

Other sources can contribute to pollutant emissions from internal combustion engines, usually in minor amounts but occasionally containing highly dangerous materials. Metals and other chemicals produced by engine wear, as well as compounds emitted by pollution control catalysts, are examples of these extra emissions (via catalyst attrition or volatilization of solid compounds at high exhaust temperatures). Catalysts can also aid the formation of novel species that aren’t ordinarily seen in engine exhaust. This appears to be the case in particular when catalysts are used in the combustion chamber. Some gasoline additives, for example—so-called “Highly poisonous dioxins and furans have been connected to “fuel-borne catalysts” used to enhance the renewal of diesel particle filters. When additives (catalytic or not) are injected into the fuel or lubrication oil, as well as when fluids are added into the exhaust gas, the likelihood of additional emissions must be considered. The use of urea as a NOx reduceant in SCR catalyst systems is a well-known example; emissions from SCR engines can include ammonia, as well as a variety of compounds resulting from incomplete urea breakdown. Low-quality fuels, for example, residual fuels used in large marine engines, include heavy metals and other chemicals that have been linked to harmful health and environmental effects.

Are diesel emissions worse than gas?

While there have been significant advancements in diesel fuel production and the engines that use it, there is yet hope for a cleaner future. By 2027, new EPA requirements aim to reduce diesel emissions by another 40%. When these objectives are accomplished, diesel engines may be able to outperform gasoline engines in the one area where they currently fall short: nitrogen compound emissions.

In 2017, six countries took part in a study on diesel engine emissions. According to the study, gas-powered engines emit 10 times more particulate matter than diesel engines. Although gas engines emit 40% more greenhouse gases, diesel NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions are higher. Diesel engines emit the most nitrous oxides of any pollutant.

The temperature achieved is directly proportional to the amount of nitrogen compounds created by burning fuel. Because diesel fuel burns hotter than gas, it produces more NOx. Exhaust emission control systems can reduce pollutants by up to 50%, however there is always potential for improvement.

There have been significant improvements in diesel emissions that do not appear to have influenced public opinion. A single 1980 diesel truck emits the same amount of pollution as 60 trucks built to today’s rigorous emissions requirements. Diesel has come a long way and should be considered a more environmentally friendly, non-renewable choice.

What fumes do diesel engines emit?

Diesel exhaust particles (DEPs) make for a large share of the particles released by motor vehicles in many towns and cities. 3, 4, 5 Diesel fuel burns completely to produce water and carbon dioxide, but in most motor vehicles, incomplete combustion occurs, resulting in the generation of different gases, liquids, and solid particles. Diesel engines emit significantly less carbon monoxide than gasoline engines, but they produce far more nitrogen oxides and aldehydes, which are particularly prone to irritate the upper respiratory tract. Submicron soot particles are also produced by diesel engines, which are thought to mediate several of the reported negative consequences. The particulate pollution from diesel engines per travelled distance is estimated to be over 10 times higher than that of equivalent-power petrol engines running on unleaded gasoline, and over 100 times higher than that of petrol engines fitted with catalytic converters 5, 6.

The dose of particles deposited in the lungs is determined by their concentration and size in the breathed air. Particles with a diameter of 7.8 m reach the alveoli and are deposited there, whereas particles with a diameter of more than 5 m only reach the proximal airways and are removed by mucociliary clearance. Previous human investigations utilizing radioactive particles have shown that 83% of particles with a mass median diameter of 2.5 m are deposited in the lung, but only 31% of particles with a mass median diameter of 11.5 m are deposited 9. DEPs are made up of a carbonaceous core similar to carbon black, onto which an estimated 18,000 different high-molecular-weight organic compounds are adsorbed, according to recent electron microscopy studies; DEPs are made up of a carbonaceous core similar to carbon black, onto which an estimated 18,000 different high-molecular-weight organic compounds are adsorbed. 2. DE comprises a complicated mixture of gases, including carbon monoxide (CO), nitric oxides (NO, NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), hydrocarbons, formaldehyde, transition metals, and carbon particles, in addition to DEPs. 10. In terms of health impacts, ultrafine particles (diameter 11, potentiation of autoimmune illnesses 12, modifications in blood coagulability, and increased cardiovascular disorders 13, 14) have recently received attention.

Is diesel fuel toxic?

Diesel isn’t especially poisonous, and accidental poisoning is quite unusual. If diesel is swallowed, however, medical help should be sought right once because there is a slight danger of short-term lung damage if vomiting ensues or if diesel droplets are inhaled.

How do you protect yourself from diesel fumes?

In the firefighting business, for example, encouraging your city to invest in post-2007 lower emission diesel apparatus is the best approach to reduce diesel smells in the fire station. Those aging fire trucks that spew black diesel soot all around the station must be retired! Using a contemporary truck in the trucking sector can help prevent some diesel risks. You might be surprised by the varieties of equipment that can now run on alternative fuels like propane and natural gas. Another option is to look for engines that run on alternate fuels.

How do you monitor diesel fumes?

Diesel is a popular fuel for a variety of purposes, including automobiles, heavy machinery, and power generators. The issue, however, is the health dangers connected with exposure to diesel exhaust emissions.

Diesel vehicle emissions, such as those from lorries, trucks, forklifts, and trains, can impact anyone working in close vicinity, especially if they are operating in enclosed environments. The principal health impacts linked with exposure to diesel engine exhaust emissions are irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, particularly if high amounts of white smoke are prevalent in the workplace. Exposure to DEEEs, particularly blue or black smoke, can cause coughing and shortness of breath.

DEEEs are classified as Group 1 (substances with definite links to cancer in humans) by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), based on sufficient evidence that DEEE exposure is linked to an increased risk of lung cancer and limited evidence for an increased risk of bladder cancer.

In its regular occupational health program update, the Office of Railway Regulation (ORR) expressly mentions the railway environment and emphasizes the necessity for railway employers to ensure that DEEE exposure is effectively controlled by strict adherence to the COSHH hierarchy of control.

Exposure Control

The COSHH Regulations specify that “if exposure to a material cannot be prevented, it must be adequately controlled under the Hierarchy of Control,” and that “if exposure to a substance cannot be stopped, it must be adequately controlled under the Hierarchy of Control.”

To eliminate or reduce dangers, the Hierarchy of Control is employed. It should also be utilized to create a risk assessment, starting at the top and going down if necessary.

A guide to preventing DEEE in the workplace is also available from the HSE (HSE publication HSG187: Control of Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions in the workplace).

Monitoring for Exposure to DEEEs

Elemental carbon, a range of aldehydes and ketones, volatile organic compounds, and combustion gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen gases, and carbon monoxide are all components of diesel fume. Blood toxins such as nitric oxide and carbon monoxide bind to the body’s haemoglobin and deplete its oxygen supply. Carbon dioxide and nitrogen, in large concentrations, can be asphyxiants, though dangerous levels are rarely found under normal conditions.

Our occupational hygienists use a variety of devices and sampling medium to capture the various components of the fume in order to monitor DEEEs.

Real-time gas monitoring sensors provide an immediate indication of diesel fume levels when monitoring carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Other battery-powered pumps and sampling medium (adsorbent tubes and filters) can be employed to keep an eye on the other components.

The particular test carried out will differ depending on the situation. There are usually tests for elemental carbon and combustion gases, however certain tests can additionally include analytical scanning for:

These tests take time, and the sample media is transported to different labs for analysis.

We can assess the risk for persons exposed to DEEEs by comparing the results to UK Workplace Exposure Limits and European Commission Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure limits, and give recommendations on how to further minimize the risk.

Prevention is Preferred

  • before it may be breathed in, remove the fume from the workplace (primarily via capture hoods, flexible hoses or roof fans)

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Press Release No. 213; Lyon, June 2012

Update on the Office of Rail Regulation’s occupational health program; October 2012

How long does it take to get carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms aren’t often visible, especially in low-level exposure.

The most typical symptom of minor carbon monoxide poisoning is a tension headache.

Low-level carbon monoxide exposure can cause symptoms that are comparable to food poisoning and the flu.

With extended exposure to carbon monoxide, the symptoms can progressively worsen, causing a delay in diagnosis.

When you’re removed from the source of the carbon monoxide, your symptoms may be milder.

If this is the case, you should look into the likelihood of a carbon monoxide leak and have any appliances you suspect are malfunctioning and leaking gas checked by a skilled professional.

Your symptoms will worsen the longer you breath the gas. You may lose your sense of balance, eyesight, and memory, as well as consciousness.

Long-term exposure to low carbon monoxide levels can also cause neurological symptoms like:

  • frequent mood shifts, such as getting quickly angered or depressed, or making rash or foolish judgments
  • a loss of bodily coordination due to underlying brain and nervous system impairment (ataxia)
  • Breathing difficulties and a heart rate of over 100 beats per minute (tachycardia)
  • Muscle spasms are caused by an uncontrollable surge of electrical activity in the brain (seizures)
  • Loss of consciousness – in circumstances when carbon monoxide levels are extremely high, death can happen in minutes.