Diesel and air quality

Why do we need to act now to reduce diesel pollution from heavy-duty engines? Because it’s not only one of Oregon’s biggest air quality problems—it contributes to all of them.  According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s 2017 Air Quality annual report, Oregon’s “air pollutants of greatest concern” are:

Ozone levels in Oregon come close to violating EPA standard.

Ground-level ozone (smog): 

Diesel engines are responsible for 49% of NOx (a smog-forming pollutant) from transportation. Heavy duty vehicles are the largest source of NOx emissions in Oregon. Ozone is created when NOx and VOC pollutants meet high temperatures and sunlight. According to Diesel Technology Forum, one diesel truck from 1988 can emit as much NOx pollution as 50 trucks that meet 2017 standards.

Air toxics: In addition to toxic diesel particles, exhaust contains toxic gases. Diesel is a source of both benzene and acetaldehyde, which are near or above health benchmarks in Oregon. 

Climate pollution: Diesel engines emit carbon dioxide, which contributes to global climate change. In addition, about 70% of diesel particles are black carbon, which has immediate effects on the local climate. Black carbon changes the quality of clouds (altering precipitation), causes faster snow and ice melt, and contributes to warmer temperatures ( absorbing solar radiation and emitting it as heat). 

Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5)
Fine (microscopic, 2.5 micron) sooty particles (PM 2.5) come from all sources of burning materials—but old diesel engines are responsible for 60% of them. Diesel particulate matter (DPM) is both part of the bigger soot problem and also considered its own uniquely toxic pollutant with its own health benchmark. Oregon’s health benchmark for diesel particulates in ambient air is set at 0.1 μg/m3 to protect people from excess cancer risk over a lifetime.

Today, 19 counties (where most Oregonians live) exceed that benchmark. 

These Average ambient concentrations are based on 2014 data reported by the state of Oregon to the 2018 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA). County averages are calculated by NATA. City averages are based on an average from census blocks, as calculated by NATA, that fall largely within city limits. https://www.epa.gov/national-air-toxics-assessment. 
Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Toxics-Free Environments Air Quality Climate Protection Toxic Free Priorities Policy Featured OEC News/Updates/Events Media/PR/Statements Transportation Solutions
Sort by

From tailpipes to lungs: the nasty impacts diesel has on human health—2020 update

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 3, 2020 OEC releases a round-up of recent science about the health impacts of diesel exhaust PORTLAND –– The science on the negative health impacts from burning diesel keeps mounting every year, and the number of diseases from exposure to this fossil fuel continue to grow and threaten Oregonians. “We’re actually learning that diesel pollution is more dangerous and has increased health risks more than we
February 4, 2020, 4:40 am


Oregon Legislature Passes Bill To Curb Toxic Diesel Exhaust

Senate Passes Bill to Protect Oregonians from Diesel Pollution
June 30, 2019, 9:06 pm


Oregon House Votes to Curb Diesel Pollution

Old dirty diesel engines may soon be on their way out
June 21, 2019, 10:21 pm


Who cares about diesel pollution?

March 28, 2019, 6:05 pm


Diesel pollution and health

Diesel exhaust is costing Oregon billions of dollars each year in health care costs, lost lives and missed work and school. “In pediatrics, we want to prevent kids from getting sick. We are asking parents to take individual action. But there’s nothing we can do to get them to prevent exposing their kids to air pollution. It’s only good public policy that can help protect kids in that way.” — Dr. Paul Lewis, MD, MPH; Tri-County Health Officer Diesel exhau
February 7, 2019, 10:00 pm


HB 2007: Diesel Clean-Up Bill

Passed by the Oregon Legislature on June 30, 2019, HB 2007 is the 2nd strongest diesel legislation in the nation. Diesel pollution is one of Oregon’s greatest toxic air pollution problems, costing us billions in lost lives and health care costs across the state. Years ago, Oregon set a goal of reducing diesel pollution to meet the state’s health benchmark. Today, we are only 2% of the way towards achieving our
February 7, 2019, 7:43 pm


New report: Oregon fails on diesel

This month, Oregon’s cross-agency team of experts made it very clear: None of our current efforts to reduce diesel pollution have worked, or will work, to meet our state’s goals for protecting human and environmental health. “Diesel emissions impacts to human health and the environment are not being adequately addressed by the DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality] or through Toxics Reduction Strategy planning.” This matter-of-fact statement, and details about Orego
January 30, 2019, 6:21 pm


Decades of diesel

Oregon’s path to clearing the air of diesel pollution is a long one, but 2019 is the year to get serious about solutions. Check out our timeline for the policies—and missed deadlines—that have led us to this moment of change.  
January 14, 2019, 3:28 pm


Salem Diesel Awareness Project

November 14, 2018, 11:38 pm


An Urgent Plea: Retired Oregon Logger Wants Legislature to Protect Others from Diesel Exhaust

Guest blog by Steve Person Steve Person pictured here with his friend and former work partner, Jim
May 31, 2017, 3:25 am


No Replies to "Diesel and air quality"