Skip to main content
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS AND TOXIC CHEMICALS WHERE YOU LIVE, WORK, AND PLAY

Diesel

What is it?

Diesel fuel is a petroleum product used in some automobiles, generators, trucks, trains, boats, and farm vehicles.

Diesel exhaust contains many gases and particles that may contribute to climate change.

See also: Vehicles and Engines Construction Factories Air Pollution Brownfield Cancer

Where is Diesel found?

  • Consumer products - some vehicles, boats, and generators
  • Air - exhaust emitted by burning diesel fuel
  • Water - contaminated by a spill or leaking underground storage tank

How can I be exposed to Diesel?

Diesel commonly enter(s) the body through:

Eating
Ingestion (swallowing)
  • Drinking water that is contaminated by a diesel spill or leak
Inhalation
Inhalation (breathing)
  • Breathing vehicle exhaust
Touching
Skin contact
  • Touching diesel fuel

What happens when I am exposed to Diesel?

Short-term:

Exposure to diesel exhaust in small amounts can cause:

  • Irritation to the eyes and nose
  • Headache
  • Nausea

Skin contact with diesel fuel may damage the kidneys.

Long-term:

Breathing diesel fuel vapors or exhaust for a long time can cause:

  • Respiratory disease
  • Kidney damage
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Lowering of the blood’s ability to clot
  • Cancer

Who is at risk for exposure to Diesel?

  • Consumers
    • Some fuels contain diesel.
  • Farmers
    • Some farm vehicles use diesel fuel.

Reduce your risk

If you think your health has been affected by exposure to diesel fuel or exhaust, contact your health care professional.

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals. For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

  • Do you live near a busy highway?
  • How frequently are you exposed to vehicle exhaust or gas stations?
  • Do you use a home generator that uses diesel?
  • Limit your time near idling cars, trucks, or buses.
  • If you use diesel gasoline, pump gas carefully to avoid breathing the fumes.
  • Avoid skin contact with diesel fuel.
  • Do not drink or swim in water that has been contaminated with diesel fuel from a spill or leaking underground storage tank.
  • Don’t let children play near gas stations, idling vehicles, or busy highways.
National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases
  • Diesel Fuel. Household Products Database

    Search results on household products containing diesel fuel from a database that allows scientists and consumers to research products based on chemical ingredients.

Additional Resources
  • Diesel Exhaust in the United States (Environmental Protection Agency)

    Information resource on the health and environmental effects of diesel exhaust, populations at risk, and government actions to advance cleaner diesel engines.

  • Fuel Oils. ToxFAQs (includes diesel) (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)

    Factsheet with answers to most frequently asked questions about fuel oil (including diesel) exposure, and its effect on human health, developed by a federal public health agency that protects communities from harmful health effects related to exposure to natural and man-made hazardous substances.

Back to top