A study published in the European Heart Journal by Scottish scientists shows millions of people could be at greatly increased risk of heart attacks and strokes triggered by invisible microscopic particles in diesel fumes.
The University of Edinburgh team found that only one hour of breathing in diesel fumes from a busy city street causes arteries to stiffen and helps blood clots form leading to heart attacks and strokes.
Dr Mark Miller, of the Centre for Cardiovascular in Edinburgh tested the effect of gases found in diesel fumes, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, on volunteers and concluded that the microscopic particles present in the fumes were more dangerous than the gases.
The results show that both gases and particles can affect blood pressure but it is actually the particles emitted by car exhausts that are really harmful; they produce highly reactive nanoparticles called free radicals that can damage blood vessels and lead to vascular disease.
Health experts are demanding that manufacturers further improve diesel exhaust filters on new cars, or add gadgets to their cars to trap particles before they escape reducing the risk of increasing heart disease in heavily polluted cities. They are also asking if it’s possible for the harmful particles to be removed from the fuel before it even goes in the car.
50.6% of new cars sold last year were diesel, those with older cars can fit newer filters to cut down on emissions.