September 12, 2007

Petroleum diesel exhaust far more damaging than biodiesel, researchers say

Melbourne, Australia – Researchers at Deakin University in Australia report that diesel exhaust is far more damaging to human health than exhaust from plant-based biodiesel. Tests on human airway cells found that diesel exhaust damaged and killed the cells, while biodiesel exhaust had little effect.

“Australia’s escalating need for fuel is posing a major health problem,” says Associate Professor Leigh Ackland, who led the team of researchers. “The fumes from burning fuels, including diesel, contributes to pollution and can cause heart disease, bronchitis and asthma. Efforts are underway to replace petrol and diesel with cleaner biofuels, such as biodiesel, but there is considerable resistance to this. This study provides clear evidence that diesel exhaust is more harmful to our health than biodiesel exhaust.”

The research was conducted on human airway cells grown in a culture, which were exposed to the particulate matter emitted in diesel and biodiesel exhaust fumes. “Our research found that the particulate matter from diesel exhaust stimulated a ‘death pathway’ response that the body uses to dispose of damaged cells,” Ackland says. “This response caused the airway cells to fuse together and die. We saw hardly any cell death after treatment with biodiesel particulates.”

The study has been published in the latest edition of the international journal Immunology and Cell Biology.

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