Region 1: EPA New England

Diesel Exhaust

Pollution from diesel engines is a widespread problem across New England and it significantly contributes to air pollution, especially in urban areas. Diesel exhaust is made up of small particles, known as fine particulate matter. Fine particles pose a serious health risk because they can easily pass through the nose and throat and lodge themselves in the lungs. When inhaled repeatedly, the fine particles in diesel exhaust may aggravate asthma and allergies or cause other serious health problems including lung cancer. EPA New England is working to advance cleaner diesel engines, promote pollution control technology, prevent unnecessary idling and ultimately, make the black puff of smoke that can come from these engines an image of the past. There are a number of actions that you can take to reduce the diesel emissions as well.


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  • Diesel exhaust contains fine particles which can aggravate asthma and cause lung damage as well as premature death. Diesel Engines last a long time (20-30 years).

  • EPA has classified diesel particulate matter as a likely human carcinogen.
  • All six New England states have childhood asthma rates above 10 percent.

What is EPA Doing?

To reduce diesel pollution and help ensure that New Englanders have cleaner air, EPA has set stringent emission standards for new diesel engines and diesel fuel. These national standards reduce diesel pollution from new diesel engines by 90 percent. To reduce diesel pollution from existing diesel engines, EPA is implementing voluntary local and regional initiatives. In addition, EPA is encouraging schools, businesses, institutions and communities to develop anti-idling policies.

Since 2002, more than 10,000 engines operating in New England have been or are being retrofitted with pollution control technology.