Every human being has a right to breathe clean air, free of dangerous pollutants. Unfortunately, that’s not the case today. Every day, millions of Americans breathe dangerous levels of airborne pollutants from motor vehicle exhaust, resulting in adverse health outcomes.

Toxic pollutants from gasoline and diesel fuel combustion include particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon dioxide (CO2) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as well as a group of harmful petrochemicals – benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene – commonly known as BTEX. 

Get the Facts

Particulate Matter from Diesel Fuel
  • Diesel PM is often emitted in close proximity to people, resulting in high levels of exposure
  • Diesel PM is small enough that it easily deposits in the lungs
  • Diesel exhaust contains more than 40 cancer-causing substances
  • Diesel PM contributes to a wide range of negative health outcomes, including asthma, increased hospital admissions, and even premature death
Toxic Petrochemicals in Gasoline
  • BTEX compose approximately 20 percent of the U.S. fuel mix, according to the EPA
  • Benzene has been classified as carcinogenic by numerous global and U.S. health authorities
  • BTEX components have been linked to serious health issues at levels well below EPA standards
  • BTEX also contributes to secondary particulate matter formulation
  • Research indicates that even a small reduction in key pollutants can save lives

Increased Health Risks

According to the EPA, people exposed to toxic air pollutants suffer from higher mortality rates, hospitalizations and disease.








According to the World Health Organization, air pollution tops the list of global health threats. That is because nine out of 10 people breathe unhealthy air, resulting in a death toll of seven million people each year.

New Research Links Air Pollution to Higher Coronavirus Death Rates

Who is Most at Risk?

Those at the greatest health risk frequently live in urban areas with high levels of traffic congestion and less affluent communities near major roadways. The most vulnerable include young children as well as those who face socioeconomic barriers associated with poverty, ethnicity, and education.

The Takeaway

Urban communities suffer disproportionately from the impacts of dangerous tailpipe emissions. We must demand immediate action to utilize cleaner fuels and greener engines, enforce stricter vehicle emissions standards, and make affordable mobility options available to all.

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