How diesel cars are killing us. 20 times more particulates than petrol.

Air pollution. “Pea souper” smog may be a thing of the past, but less visible pollution is still 
exacting a toll on the health of commuters and city dwellers. And it’s not just our lungs that 
are affected. A landmark European study published just last month found a link between 
invisible particles of soot and the risk of heart attack.

Frank Kelly is Professor of Environmental Health at King’s College London.

It builds on a very large literature which indicates that there is an association between living 

in an area which has got higher air pollution and a major health outcome, which is heart 
attacks. So the study was done across five European countries, it ran for 12 years and it 
involved over 100,000 people.

And that increased risk was how much?

That increased risk was relatively small, it was the order of between 5 and 10% but it’s still 

a risk and…

Heart attacks are common as well.

… there’s 45,000 people die from heart attacks in the UK every year and if we can help that 

component of that sector by minimising the risk then I think everybody would be very 

So a small increase but in a common thing?

Yes, we all have to breathe.

Looking at the pollutants themselves, I mean with the advent of the catalytic converter of 

course petrol engines were cleaned up and you can’t smell the fumes like you used to be 
able to but there’s a new danger emerged?

Yes, Europeans have got a great love for the diesel engine because we thought it was a 

more efficient than the petrol engine, we could get more miles to the gallon. That’s not really
 true anymore and we’re left really with the problem of diesel being much more of a polluting
 fuel than petrol is. A typical figure that’s usually used is that you’ll get 20 times more 
particles from a diesel exhaust engine than you will from a petrol engine.

And explain what these particles are.

So these are small carbon particles, so small you can’t see them. And to try and put that 

into context – a human hair, which you can just see, is 60 micrometres in diameter, the 
largest of these particles that can get into your lung are only 10 but the majority of them are 
much, much smaller than that. So they’re invisible to the naked eye but they’re produced in 
very large quantities from all our transport systems and in urban environments.

Are modern cars with all of the latest emissions are they still producing these particles?

Modern cars – they have become cleaner but they haven’t become clean enough. And 

what has unfortunately has become apparent, just in the last 12 months is, is that these 
fantastic exhaust systems work beautifully in the factory whenever the car is running to a 
very set cycle but the technology, it turns out, doesn’t work that well in real life. So if you 
have a vehicle on a London road, which is running at maybe 12 or 13 miles an hour 
because of congestion, it never gets up to the right temperature to effectively work properly. 
So we’re getting a lot more pollution from a vehicle which is meant to be very clean.

And how are these particles actually harming us?

The difference about these modern vehicle exhaust particles are that they’re very small, so 

they’re actually getting to parts of our bodies, deep parts of our lung, which particles have 
never been able to get to before because we’ve always had the larger ones associated with 
burning wood and coal. But these modern diesel associated particles are so small that 
some of them can actually get across our lung into our circulation. Now that’s never 
happened to the human lung before but if you get this happening day in, month in, year in 
over decades then clearly it can build up to a big problem.

This new study looked at a link between pollution and heart attack, do we think that these 

small particles getting into the bloodstream are affecting the heart that way, is that how…?


Posted by Anonymous to the tap at 8:48 pm


8:58 PM (8 hours ago)

to me
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post “Diesel cars kill tens of thousands of 

part 2

There are two main theories. One is that yes they are transferring across from the lung into 

the circulation and affecting blood vessels and the heart directly. The other theory is that it’s 
not the particles themselves but it’s what they carry on their surface, so they carry these 
complex chemicals of metals and organic compounds which you get from combustion and
 then when they get into the deep lung they leach off and they move across the cells into the circulation – that’s the chemicals. And it doesn’t really matter, the bottom line is that they’re getting across whether they’re on the particle’s surface or not.

What happens to these particles once they come out the back of an exhaust pipe, are they 

dispersed like gases would be?

Absolutely. So immediately beside a busy road there’ll be a high concentration of them and

if you happen to be moving along that pavement or whatever you’ll be breathing them in
 fresh. But very quickly they do move up into the air and depending on the weather 
conditions they’ll be mixed with older particles and they may, if there’s not high buildings on 
the road, they may be cleared across out of the city very quickly.

What about people who are cycling and pedestrians who are commuting, the children who 

are walking to school, presumably the more vigorous the activity that you’re doing in this 
polluted air the more likely you are to draw these particles in?

Absolutely, so everything I’ve been talking about so far is to do with concentration of 

particles in the air. Obviously someone who’s cycling they’re breathing much harder, or if 
they’re running they’re breathing much harder, if it’s a child playing they’re breathing much 
deeper and longer. So it’s that volume of air and the concentration of pollution in the air 
which gives you the ultimate figure which we all need to pay attention to.

What about filtering these particles out? First of all let’s talk about the cyclist then – we see 

lots of cyclists in London wearing masks, do any masks work?

Certainly the relatively cheap disposable masks they will not prevent the particles entering 

the lung because they are too small. So effectively if you’re going to stop those you would 
have to have something which basically stopped you being able to breathe. There are 
some higher end masks which have activated charcoal as part of their makeup and they will
trap some of the gases which we worry about – we haven’t talked about those, like nitrogen 
dioxide which also has health effects – though actually to stop these very small particles 
you have a big challenge on your hands.


Posted by Anonymous to the tap at 8:58 pm


8:58 PM (8 hours ago)

to me
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post “Diesel cars kill tens of thousands of 
Britons ever…“:

If it’s not practical to wear that sort of mask what would your advice to cyclists be?

So unfortunately many of the major cycle routes are along our busiest roads and that’s where
the most pollution is. So there are now apps and maps available which will allow cyclists to
plot their route from A to B by maybe adding two or three minutes to their journey but just going
down some side roads, some back roads, through parks and they’ll have a much pleasanter
experience and they can drop their exposure level to this pollution considerably, I mean many fold.

And to put diesel cars in context, I mean we haven’t talked about buses and other – the heavy
goods vehicles, but look at the cars – a modern diesel car compared to the equivalent modern petrol car, how clean is petrol now?

Very, very clean, the technology for the petrol car has really led to a much improved combustion
of the fuel and as a result some of the new Euro Six petrol engines are producing very, very small
amounts of particles and very, very small amounts of oxides and nitrogen in the gas. If you want
to drop pollution with the technology that’s available at the moment then a small engine petrol
vehicle is ideal.

Professor Frank Kelly. And don’t think you are protected because you are sitting in a car – most
modern automotive filters are not fine enough to remove diesel particulates, and you are breathing
the same air as the cyclists and pedestrians.

Diesels can be run perfectly safely on vegetable oil, which they were designed for in the first place.

The Tap Blog is a collective of like-minded researchers and writers who’ve joined forces to distribute information and voice opinions avoided by the world’s media.

3 Responses to “How diesel cars are killing us. 20 times more particulates than petrol.”

  1. Anonymous says:

    heres an old article but superbly illustrates that the diesel engine run on vegetable oil as designed, is quite safe

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m not so sure about the diesel and petrol bogeyman.

    During the mid to later part of the last century (before the chemtrails and depopulation agenda went into overdrive), people who had often smoked high tar/unfiltered cigarettes from an early age were living into their eighties and nineties. Cars did a lot less to the leaded gallon.

    Children were growing up in homes where often both parents smoked indiscriminately, and smokeless fuels for heating had yet to be invented.

    And yet here we are now, when everything that can be controlled, taxed, filtered and banned has been, and everyone around us is dying of cancer, or so the cancer charidees would have you believe.

    And in just the same way the charity industry got the women onboard to collect money for their CE0’s Merc/BMW lifestyles, now its Men UTD against prostrate cancer..but ask the charities if they are trying to find a cure (when we know the PTB’s have them for their own use), and what you’ll get is that the charitees are there to spread “awareness”-yeah right, spread awareness to make more profit for the charity!

    Virtually every advert on the “Viper in the Corner” is about some illness, death has become a currency.

    Maybe if we all had a bit more sunshine, a bit less doom on the Viper, got out in our cars a bit more into the very countryside the Agenda 21 pervs dont want you visiting, and worried a bit less about existing then we would all live to the ages our parents and grandparents did in the good ol’ days of pollution!

  3. As long ago as the 1960s people were saying diesel fumes were more likely to cause cancer that cigarettes. I don’t think comparisons like that are helpful, but there was an awareness of the risks that was swept under the carpet thanks to the road transport lobby.

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