Symptoms of breathing in diesel fumes include lightheadedness, heartburn, nausea, wheezing and tightness in the chest, according to the United States National Library of Medicine Tox Town. Individuals with existing medical conditions, such as asthma or heart disease, may experience worse symptoms.
People exposed to diesel fumes can have difficulty breathing and may experience tingling in their hands and feet; appetite loss; respiratory problems; and eye irritation. Breathing in diesel exhaust particulates, along with cigarette smoke and welding fumes, can increase a person's risk of developing lung cancer, states Tox Town.
Diesel fume exposure also negatively impacts the brain, according to ScienceDaily. Researchers have found that the soot particles in diesel exhaust affect brain function from deposits in brain tissues. The data collected from studies reveal that the brains of test volunteers showed stress responses when exposed to diesel fumes at a highly concentrated level. The stress responses continued even when the subjects were no longer breathing in the exhaust.
Diesel exhaust contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and 40 substances that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers hazardous air pollutants, according to the state of Indiana's website. The risk of experiencing these symptoms increases if the individual works in or around enclosed areas with diesel-powered vehicles.