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Vehicle Exhausts

Links to Information Sources on Vehicle Exhaust Emissions:

Vehicle Exhausts - What YOU Can Do to Reduce Pollution and Improve Fuel Economy

Reducing emissions from vehicles is an important concern, as cars/trucks are a major source of air pollution contributing to health and environmental problems such as urban smog, air toxics, and global warming. Yet individual driving habits make a big difference in the amount of pollution a vehicle produces.

Exhaust emissions are at best unhealthy. At worst they can be fatal.

As part of your health and safety responsibilities, you are legally required to manage the risks from hazardous substances. Both petrol and diesel engines produce carbon monoxide, soot and other contaminants. It's your responsibility to prevent or at least control exposure. For example, you might need to:

  • ensure that diesel engines are properly tuned and maintained
  • fit control systems such as catalytic converters
  • enforce procedures such as ensuring that engines are switched off when not needed
  • fit extraction fans in areas where fumes can build up

You should also watch out for warning signs. Blue or black smoke produced by poorly maintained or faulty engines is particularly harmful. The build up of soot on walls can also show that diesel fumes are excessive.

Smoke is the product of combustion. Vehicles at your workplace may produce three kinds of smoke, two of which indicate engine problems. The three types are:
  • blue smoke (mainly oil and unburnt fuel) which indicates a poorly serviced and/or tuned engine;
  • black smoke (soot, oil and unburnt fuel) which
  • indicates a mechanical fault with the engine;
  • white smoke (water droplets and unburnt fuel) which is produced when the engine is started from cold and disappears when the engine warms up.

With older engines, the white smoke produced has a sharp smell which may cause irritation to your upper respiratory system.

 Three easy things you can do to help keep emissions as low as possible are:

v      Avoid unnecessary driving

v      Maintain your vehicle properly

v      Drive your vehicle wisely

By combining these strategies, you can very effectively reduce the amount your vehicle pollutes. And there are additional benefits — your vehicle will last longer and you will save money.

 Avoid Unnecessary Driving

The most effective way to reduce emissions from your vehicle is to use it less. Several options are available to help you reduce the amount you drive. These include consolidating trips, telecommuting, carpooling, using public transit, and choosing clean transportation alternatives such as biking or walking. By planning errands, you will get the most out of time you do spend behind the wheel. For example, call ahead to confirm that the product you need is in stock before you drive to the store. Plan to do several tasks when you go somewhere.

 Maintain Your Car Properly

You will reduce your vehicle’s emissions and enhance its performance if you follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance guidelines. By taking proper care of your vehicle, you will also extend its life, increase its resale value, and optimize its fuel economy. The owner’s manual that comes with your vehicle contains a wealth of information. It outlines recommended maintenance intervals, product specifications, and operating procedures. Every vehicle has some items that need to be checked on a regular basis and others that need to be replaced periodically. These include the air filter, vacuum and coolant hoses, oil, oil filter, fluids, belts, and so on. It’s also important to keep the tyres inflated to the recommended pressure. This will minimize tyre wear and help your vehicle get the best possible fuel economy.

Today’s vehicles are designed with emission controls as integral components of the powertrain. Any tampering with this system will not only drastically increase emissions but is likely to have a negative effect on vehicle performance and durability.

 Drive Wisely: Helpful Habits to Reduce Pollution

Even a perfectly maintained vehicle will pollute more than necessary if it is driven carelessly. Your vehicle’s emissions will be lower if you apply common sense to your driving and follow basic rules of the road. Driving situations likely to increase pollution include:


IDLING: You will save fuel by turning the engine off and restarting it again if you expect to idle for more than 30 seconds. You will also prevent pollution by avoiding long idles. Try parking your vehicle and going into restaurants, banks, and the like instead of idling in drive-up lanes.

STOP-and-GO DRIVING: Driving in traffic is not always avoidable. But whenever possible, plan trips outside rush hour and peak traffic periods. Try to “smooth” your driving by accelerating and decelerating gradually, anticipating stops and starts for traffic lights, changing traffic speeds, and so on.

AIR CONDITIONING: Use of a vehicle air conditioner increases load on the engine. This can increase emissions and decrease fuel economy. Try opening the window or the fresh air vent to cool the inside of your vehicle. Also, park in the shade if you can to prevent the car from heating up in the sun. Besides keeping the interior temperature of your car more comfortable, you will lessen the pollution and waste that occurs when gasoline evaporates from the engine and gas tank.

HIGH ENGINE LOADS: Your vehicle burns more gas and emits more pollution when the engine is operating under high load; that is, when it is working especially hard. Extra load is created by running the air conditioner, quick accelerations, high-speed driving, climbing grades, revving the engine, and carrying extra weight.

COLD TEMPERATURES: Emission control systems take longer to warm up and become fully operational in cold weather. However, idling will not help. Modern  vehicles need little warmup; they’re most efficient when being driven. Idling for long periods in cold weather can actually cause excessive engine wear.

REFUELING: Spilled gasoline pollutes the air when it evaporates. Watch what you do at the filling station to prevent spills and overfills. It’s best to avoid “topping off,” especially in hot weather.


So all in all we have numerous means of reducing our vehicle emissions and improving fuel economy essentially by:

v      Avoiding unnecessary driving

v      Maintaining your vehicle properly

v      Driving your vehicle wisely


By combining these strategies, you can very effectively reduce the amount your vehicle pollutes. And there are additional benefits — your vehicle will last longer and you will save money.

Links to Information Sources on Vehicle Exhausts :

UK HSE information on diesel

Research on Diesel and possible health hazards form human exposure 

An online information service on Diesel Exhaust Emissions and control 

Diesel Forum based

Canadian Diesel Engine Emissions Evaluation Programme (DEEP)

US based NIOSH review of technology on Diesel in Mining and Diesel Particulate Filter Selection Guide for Diesel-powered Equipment in Metal and Nonmetal Mines

US based NIOSH Mine safety training materials, Toolbox and Software many can be downloaded free

Information on diesel emissions form US based Environmental Defense

Workshop on Strategies to Evaluate Diesel Emissions in the ACES Project

UK based association for Commuter Transport

UK Transport Energy Emissions

USEPA Global Warming, Transport Alternatives  and Energy information

Greener Cars

Canadian Low Sulfur Fuels procurement guide

Puget Sound Clean Cities Coalition Vehicle Emissions Information

Gateway Clean Air Program - RapidScreen Frequently Asked Questions

Vehicle emission testing - Wisconsin Department of Transportation


Links to other sources of Environmental Information