Diesel engines are quite popular in Europe, but this bit of news will send shivers down the lungs of people throughout the area. Scottish scientists working at Edinburgh University identified diesel exhaust soot particles as the chief culprits in 9,000 fatal heart attacks a year across the United Kingdom. The team of scientists discovered how soot particles move from the lungs into the blood stream, where they can do massive damage. It's not just pedestrians and bike riders who are at risk, said Professor Ken Donaldson, a toxicologist who helped lead the research team. Donaldson told the News Scotsman that, "These particles are so small they pass quite easily through face masks that people often wear to protect themselves from traffic fumes. Ironically drivers themselves might be most at risk if they are stuck in traffic, as the exhaust fumes from the car in front are drawn directly into their own cars."
Diesel emission laws in Europe will force car makers to install filters on diesel engines that should reduce particulate emissions by 80 percent starting in 2008, but it is unclear if these filters will eliminate the particulates the researchers found to be to most damaging to people. The number of diesel engines in Europe has increased dramatically in recent years as gas prices climbed upwards. In the U.K. alone, the number of diesel cars grew from 1.6 million in 1994 to over 5 million today. The researchers did not report on how or if using biodiesel would reduce dangerous emissions levels, although everyone agrees the biofuel burns cleaner than standard diesel.

[Source: News Scotsman, Thanks to Steve Brezina]

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