The Toxicity of Diesel Exhaust: Implications for Primary Care

Irina N. Krivoshto, BA; John R. Richards, MD; Timothy E. Albertson, MD, MPH, PhD; Robert W. Derlet, MD


J Am Board Fam Med. 2008;21(1):55-62. 

In This Article


As populations continue to grow worldwide, the expansion of mass transportation and the construction of new buildings for housing and commerce will occur concomitantly. Until alternative energy sources are fully developed and implemented, reliance on diesel fuel will increase. Acute and chronic exposure to diesel exhaust will continue to be a problem in the United States. This will ultimately increase the number of patients presenting to urban primary care clinics and emergency departments with cardiopulmonary disease, neurological disorders, and adverse perinatal events. If new regulations and technology to reduce DEP emissions are fully implemented and prove to be effective, this outcome may be averted. The omnipresence of diesel exhaust in urban areas may lead the clinician to preclude its query in the patient's history. A plethora of unexplained signs and symptoms may be caused by diesel exposure ( Table 3 ). Although no specific screening guidelines exist, primary care physicians should question patients about potential exposure to diesel exhaust and be familiar with its myriad deleterious health effects.


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