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A New Study Reveals Diesel Filters’ Unintended Effects

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A car mechanic fits a particle filter to a diesel-engined car.

Filters, which have been attached to diesel cars for roughly the two decades, were invented and widely implemented as a way to mitigate some of the damaging health effects of diesel. But a new study suggests that diesel filters have some unintended consequences.

Filters were introduced as a way to decrease fine particulate matter, which is made of dust, dirt, soot, smoke, or other organic compounds. And because of their small size, these particles can get lodged in the lungs or enter the bloodstream.

Inhaling fine particulate matter—and fossil fuel pollution generally—can be deadly. Air pollution currently causes up to 8.8 million premature deaths worldwide each year, surpassing global deaths from smoking.

The study, published last Friday in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found that, while the filters were successfully filtering fine particulate matter, filtered exhaust fumes had higher levels of nitrogen dioxide, which has the potential to exacerbate common allergic reactions.

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