Diesel fuel is commonly used in generators, trucks, railway locomotives, and tractors. While it produces fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline, diesel exhaust is hazardous to health, as diesel engines emit particulates, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides, and sulfur oxides. Diesel exhaust increases the risk of lung cancer, and can cause respiratory irritation, potentially aggravating pre-existing illnesses like heart disease and asthma. There is no federal OSHA standard for exposure to diesel exhaust.
There are a variety of ways to minimize the hazard of diesel fuel exposure. A common method is to properly air out indoor areas where diesel engines are running, by ventilating exhaust to the outside of buildings, either through fans or other means. Additional hazard reduction can be accomplished by using ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel, which burns cleaner, as well as by adding filters, catalytic converters, or particulate traps to existing diesel equipment. One last thing to keep in mind is that regular maintenance on diesel-powered equipment makes diesel fuel burn cleaner and produce fewer emissions.
An additional option to reduce workplace exposure to diesel exhaust is to consider using cleaner alternatives to diesel power. Diesel buses, for instance, can be replaced with buses that burn compressed natural gas. Diesel-powered forklifts can be replaced with electric forklifts in some cases.