Can diesel fumes kill you?


I am an aviation maintenance student at our local college. In class the other day, one of my instructors stated that diesel fumes cannot hurt/kill you. According to her, you can sit in a garage filled with diesel exhaust all day long and emerge unscathed. I have my doubts, but is there actual truth to this?


No. Absolutely not. Even if the particulates (not a problem in a modern passenger diesel) don’t get you, and they probably won’t, the carbon monoxide might, and even if that is kept to a minimum, you could get to the point where the carbon dioxide could suffocate you


Is the instructor willing to prove her theory by testing it on herself?

If diesel exhaust were not harmful why would we be spending so much time and effort to clean up the engines on commercial vehicles?

The exhaust from any internal combustion engine is hazardous, poisonous, and lethal under the right circumstances. See OSHA information regarding diesel exhaust hazards at the link:


If that were the case, why don’t we see diesel powered fork trucks used indoors instead of gas ? As stated, an internal combustion engine is an internal combustion engine and all have to be treated with respect. I suppose she thinks it’s OK to vent your heating oil flue to the inside as well.
Is your instructor a smoker ? Diesel may not seem quite so bad to her from her self induced haze. Every remark has to be taken in perspective, but on face value, her’s is a reason to change instructors.


Those diesel fumes absolutely can kill you.

I think that this instructor may be guilty of getting her scientific knowledge on this topic from a speech made many years ago by our then-President, Ronald Reagan.

In conjunction with lifting/delaying the implementation of emissions controls on heavy diesel trucks, Mr. Reagan stated that “trees emit more pollution than diesel engines”. This followed huge contributions to his party by the trucking industry, but I’m sure that this was merely coincidental.

In response to Mr. Reagan’s above statement, the President of The Sierra Club offered to lock himself in a room with a tree if Mr. Reagan would lock himself in a room with a running diesel engine. There is no record of Mr. Reagan’s response to this offer, but his actions did set back the course of air pollution control by a couple of decades.


Your instructor is not correct. The primary exhaust components from No. 2 diesel are H2O, CO2, CO, NOx, HC, SO2, particulates (PM) and organic compounds, some of which are carcinogens. SO2 has been reduced significantly with LSD.

Where your instructor is in the aviation field, he/she may be used to dealing with JetA & NO1 diesel, which is basically kerosene. Kerosene burns much cleaner than No 2, but it still generates harmful emissions. The emissions are much lower when combusted at atmospheric pressure, which is why kerosene heaters can be used indoors with minimal ventilation.


is she refering to fumes, or exhaust?

your aviation instructor is sort of half way right. diesel leaks less fumes then gasoline sitting in a barrel (supposedly, you can light a match over a barrel of diesel, but not gasoline), but it still leaks out some.

and fuels for flying are different from driving. aircraft gasoline has no ethanol. and jet fuel is fancy diesel with some stuff changed to it.


Even unvented kerosene heaters must be used in a well ventilated room.


Yes it can as can gasoline engine exhaust and kerosine heaters.


It all depends on how much. Ask your instructor how long they’d be willing to sit in a closed garage with a diesel truck idling outside, the exhaust plumbed into the garage. 5 minutes? 5 hours? 5 days? Enough CO2 will kill, for sure.


Even if the diesel fumes wouldn’t kill you (which they will) if you sit in the garage of diesel exhaust all day, I don’t think I would want to come out smelling of diesel exhaust. I don’t like boarding a train in a big station where the diesel locomotives are running, or going through a tunnel on the train where the fumes come in through the ventilating system on the coaches. If your instructor wants to sit in a garage full of diesel fumes or a President of the U.S. wants to move the oval office to a bus barn, I guess that’s their business.
I’m in a building where we have an emergency diesel generator to supply power to the computers in the event of a power failure. When this generator is run, the fumes are picked up by the ventilating system in the building, so its monthly test is run on a Sunday morning when nobody is around. The generator was to be installed before Januaryof 2000 so we would be ready for Y2K. Well, it wasn’t installed until March of 2000, but my administration tells me that we are now ready for Y3K.


About 5 minutes in a closed garage with a Diesel running is all any human can stand…Diesels produce a huge VOLUME of exhaust gasses that QUICKLY pollute even a large airspace…I hope your instructors ignorance does not extend into aviation mechanics…

An old saying: “If you can’t do it, teach it…”


I think that this instructor may be guilty of getting her scientific knowledge on this topic from a speech made many years ago by our then-President, Ronald Reagan.

Do you mean the same Reagan who said…

“I have flown twice over Mt St. Helens out on our west coast. I’m not a scientist and I don’t know the figures, but I have a suspicion that that one little mountain has probably released more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere of the world than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or things of that kind that people are so concerned about.” – Ronald Reagan, 1980. (Actually, Mount St. Helens, at its peak activity, emitted about 2,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per day, compared with 81,000 tons per day by cars.)


Yes, diesel fumes in a room without ventiilation can kill you. They can silently put you to sleep and silently you can die. And there are other dangers.

I urge you, please show these links to your instructor. She needs a bit more information in this area.


Yes, the same one.
He was truly a source of accurate scientific information.


I’m crushed…


So ketchup isn’t really a vegetable? Darn it!


And, removing the UTQ grading information from the sidewall of tires did NOT “allow consumers to make better, more informed tire-buying decisions”, despite his administration’s claims.

The UTQ tire-grading information was restored during a subsequent administration.


There will be plenty more of these gems when Palin starts campaigning.
What fun!


Can diesel fumes kill you?

No, not me.
But then again, I am only visiting this planet.

According to her, you can sit in a garage filled with diesel exhaust all day long and emerge unscathed.

Looks like it’s time to pull out the double-dog dare!