What Are the Effects of Smelling Diesel Fumes?

Long-term exposure to diesel exhaust is likely to increase risk of lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. It is a significant part of outdoor air pollution that can lead to headaches, eye irritation, heart disease, lung disease and immune system problems.

Researchers believe that diesel exhaust is linked to lung cancer, says the American Cancer Society. Some studies of workers exposed to diesel fumes revealed small but substantial increases in chances of lung cancer. People with the longest and heaviest exposures, such as heavy equipment operators and railroad workers, were discovered to have higher lung cancer death rates compared to unexposed workers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans based on evidence that it causes higher risk of lung cancer.

Studies of cells in lab dishes unveil that the soot or chemical extracts of diesel exhaust potentially change the DNA of cells, says the American Cancer Society. These changes are typically required for cancer to develop, although not every substance that causes DNA changes also causes cancer. Heavy, prolonged exposure to the fumes leads to lung cancer in lab animals, such as rats. Several studies have also found links between diesel exhaust exposure and the possibility of developing other types of cancers, including cancers of the larynx, esophagus and stomach.