The particles are one-fifth the diameter of a human hair. They lodge deep in the lungs and never come back out. Children and the elderly are particularly affected. They cause lung cancer, lower resistance to disease, and make it difficult to breathe. It’s impossible to accurately estimate the deaths that occur as a result of exposure, but the EPA has suggested that it could be between 500 and 8,000 per million people.
Toxic exhaust from diesel engines, in both the form of gases and particulate matter, is a major contributor to health problems. It is also a leading cause of smog, which has led Paris to ban diesel cars on alternate days during high-smog periods and to plan for a comprehensive ban on diesel passenger vehicles in the city by 2020.
For Europe, this is a case of chickens coming home to roost.