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See also Diesel exhaust air contaminants

Diesel particulate matter (DPM), sometimes also called diesel exhaust particles (DEP), is the particulate component of diesel exhaust from older diesel cars, which includes diesel soot and aerosols such as ash particulates, metallic abrasion particles, sulfates, and silicates. When released into the atmosphere, DPM can take the form of individual particles or chain aggregates, with most in the invisible sub-micrometre range of 100 nanometers, also known as ultrafine particles (UFP) or PM0.1.

Health risks

The main particulate fraction of diesel exhaust consists of small particles. Because of their small size, inhaled particles may easily penetrate deep into the lungs. The rough surfaces of these particles makes it easy for them to bind with other toxins in the environment, thus increasing the hazards of particle inhalation. Exposures have been linked with acute short-term symptoms such as headache, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, coughing, difficult or labored breathing, tightness of chest, and irritation of the eyes and nose and throat. Long-term exposures can lead to chronic, more serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cardiopulmonary disease, and lung cancer.

Exposure to diesel exhaust and DPM is a known occupational hazard to truckers, railroad workers, and miners using diesel-powered equipment in underground mines. Adverse health effects have also been observed in the general population at ambient atmospheric particle concentrations well below the concentrations in occupational settings.

Recently, concerns have been raised in the U.S.marker regarding children's exposure to DPM as they ride diesel-powered schoolbuses to and from school. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established the Clean School Bus USA initiative in an effort to unite private and public organizations in curbing student exposures.


Although the American Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a health standard in January 2001 designed to reduce exposure in underground metal and nonmetal mines, on September 7, 2005, MSHA published a notice in the Federal Register proposing to postpone the effective date from January 2006 until January 2011.


  • Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration. Diesel Particulate Matter Exposure of Underground Metal and Nonmetal Miners: Final Rule, January 19, 2001. Federal Register 66(13):5706.
  • Monforton C. Weight of the Evidence or Wait for the Evidence? Protecting Underground Miners from Diesel Particulate Matter American Journal of Public Health, 2006;96(2):271-276.
  • Steenland K, Silverman DT, Hornung DW. "Case control study of lung cancer and truck driving in the Teamsters union." American Journal of Public Health 1990; 80:670-674.
  • Steenland, K, Silverman DT, Zaebst D. "Exposure to diesel exhaust in the trucking industry and possible relationships with lung cancer." American Journal of Industrial Medicine 1992; 21:887-890.
  • Bruske-Holhfield I, Mohner M, Ahrens W, et al. "Lung cancer risk in male workers occupationally exposed to diesel motor emissions in Germany." American Journal of Industrial Medicine 1999; 36:405-414.

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