Studies of the effects of exposure to diesel exhaust and solvent extracts of diesel exhaust on bacterial/cell cultures, animals, and humans were reviewed in relation to the potential for adverse health effects of exposures in underground coal mines. The history of the development and commercial use of diesel engines was described. The composition of diesel exhaust was delineated and areas for additional studies of possible health effects were identified. Studies have demonstrated that some of the components of diesel exhaust cause mutations in microorganisms and cancer in animals. Health effects ranging from eye irritation to respiratory disease in humans have been reported. The composition of the exhaust varies due to the design of the engine, fuel composition, power output, fuel to air ratio, duty cycles, emission controls, and engine maintenance. As yet no causal association between exposure to whole diesel exhaust and the occurrence of cancer in humans has been proven. According to the authors, NIOSH cannot definitively affirm or condemn the the use of diesel equipment in underground mining operations at this time. Exposures should be kept below the Mine Safety and Health Administration standards, or NIOSH recommended exposure limits. To help meet this standard, adequate ventilation of mines is essential as is the proper maintenance of diesel equipment.
Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, NIOSH, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Cincinnati, Ohio, 143 pages, 177 references