A New Study Indicates That ‘Clean’ Diesels Are Actually Clean

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

In a world where the “green” label may not actually live up to its implied moniker, drivers of diesel-powered vehicles are being reassured that they’re doing their part for the environment, and the health of their neighbors. That is the conclusion of a recent report from the Health Effects Institute, a Boston-based organization that studies the effects of pollution, which found that emissions from diesel-powered vehicles do not contribute to developments of lung cancer.

“The first study to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of lifetime exposure to new technology diesel exhaust (NTDE) has found no evidence of carcinogenic lung tumors,” a press release from The HEI said. “The Advanced Collaborative Emissions Study (ACES), issued today by the Health Effects Institute also confirmed that the concentrations of particulate matter and toxic air pollutants emitted from NTDE are more than 90% lower than emissions from traditional older diesel engines (TDE).”

This is good news for fans and drivers of diesels, who were justifiably unnerved at the findings of another study conducted by Dutch researchers in 2013, which came to the conclusion that diesel exhaust was contributing to as many as 6% of all lung cancer deaths. That was reported by Autoblog, which also reported the results of another study done by the European Condition that found more than 420,000 Europeans die prematurely each year as a result of air pollution. In that study, diesel emissions were found to be one of many contributing factors to those early deaths.

These new results, however, seem to dispel concerns that diesel emissions are acting as a carcinogen, particularly in newer clean-diesel vehicles.

This is good news for clean-energy advocates and those concerned about public health, as it adds to diesel to the growing list of viable options for consumers to take into account when choosing a new vehicle. Though diesel-powered vehicles do still produce emissions, the results of the HEI’s study make it a more attractive choice for some than traditional gas-powered cars.

What it also goes to show is that more stringent government regulation regarding emissions not only for private vehicles, but for commercial-grade vehicles may be leading to more positive public health outcomes. “We are already seeing a transition in America’s roads with over 30% of the trucks and buses in use today meeting these new standards and the trend is growing in Europe as well,” said Dan Greenbaum, president of HEI. “These results confirm the great strides that government and industry have made to reduce diesel risk – and argue for even greater efforts to accelerate the replacement of older diesel engines.”

While Greenbaum is clearly excited about the implications for diesel in Europe and North America, others are equally as jazzed about what it could mean for Asian markets.

“These results are impressive for what they can mean for reducing exposure in the US and Europe, but also for the promise they hold in the developing countries of Asia and elsewhere in the world,” said Bob O’Keefe, vice president of HEI and chair of Clean Air Asia. “Countries like China are already moving toward implementing the ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel that is required for these new cleaner technologies.”

The news that diesels aren’t doing as much damage to public health as previously thought is definitely good news. And it comes on the heels of some other industry tremors, in which there have been some revelations that cars marketed as “green” may not actually be better for the environment, all things considered. It was found that it largely depends upon where you live, and how the energy in a particular grid is generated, but the headlines may still have knocked the “green” concept down a few pegs in consumers’ minds.

Diesel still isn’t a perfect fuel source, but research does indicate that it isn’t as harmful, at least in some ways, as once believed.

Check out Autos Cheat Sheet on Facebook