U.S. EPA health assessment for diesel engine exhaust: a review

Inhal Toxicol. 2007;19 Suppl 1:229-39. doi: 10.1080/08958370701497960.


In 2002 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a Health assessment Document for Diesel Engine Exhaust. The objective of this assessment was to examine the possible health hazards associated with exposure to diesel engine exhaust (DE). The assessment concludes that long-term inhalation exposure is likely to pose a lung cancer hazard to humans as inferred from epidemiologic and certain animal studies. Estimation of cancer potency from available epidemiology studies was not attempted because of the absence of a confident cancer dose-response and animal studies were not judged appropriate for cancer potency estimation. A noncancer chronic human health hazard is inferred from rodent studies which show dose-dependent inflammation and histopathology in the rat lung. For these noncancer effects a safe exposure concentration for humans was estimated. Short-term exposures were noted to cause irritation and inflammatory symptoms of a transient nature, these being highly variable across an exposed population. The assessment also indicates that there is emerging evidence for the exacerbation of existing allergies and asthma symptoms; however, as of 2002 the data were inadequate for quantitative dose-response analysis. The assessment conclusions are based on studies that used exposures from engines built prior to the mid 1990s. More recent engines without high-efficiency particle traps would be expected to have exhaust emissions with similar characteristics. With additional cancer epidemiology studies expected in 2007-2008, and a growing body of evidence for allergenicity and cardiovascular effects, future health assessments will have an expanded health effects data base to evaluate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency* / trends
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis
  • Vehicle Emissions / toxicity*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Vehicle Emissions