Saturday, 15 August 2015


There's a dynamic involved and it's all a question of finding the appropriate amount of exposure, that perfect point between 'under' and 'over', regardless of agent or object. Take photography: too little light and nothing is illuminated; too much and everything is obliterated. Or publicity: too little and your adoring public never gets to adore you, (probably never realises you even exist); too much and familiarity breeds the sort of contempt that eventually stales careers. Find the balance.

The Dead Good bloggers have opted to profile some scary, nasty stuff this week and I'm afraid I'm not going to buck that trend. I've got it in for diesel. I've just heard on the news that the price of diesel is at its lowest for five years and per litre, is cheaper than petrol for the first time in the UK. Shudder.

Here's the problem with diesel - more specifically exposure to diesel exhaust. Diesel engine emissions, commonly known as diesel 'fumes', are a heady mixture of gases, vapours, liquid aerosols and particulates containing the products of combustion: soot (lots of it), nitrogen, water, carbon monoxide, aldehydes, oxides of nitrogen, oxides of sulphur and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Most of the contaminants are adsorbed onto the soot. You don't get much soot from petrol engines (whose greatest pollutant is carbon monoxide). You get lots of it in diesel fumes and the latest research suggests that it could be a significant long-term health risk.

Not only can diesel fumes cause nausea and give rise to or exacerbate asthma; exposure to them in significant quantities for a period of time can cause cancers, lung cancer being the most common. They do this because the tiny size of those contaminant-laden soot particles (less than 0.1 microns) allows them to penetrate the human circulatory system, organs and tissues, with ease -  meaning they can do damage anywhere in the body. What they are particularly adept at doing is inducing the growth of new blood vessels, which could trigger the formation of tumours in previously healthy tissue.

It's just a little bit scary to think that one consequence of our efforts to reverse the greenhouse effect (by reducing the percentage of petrol-burning vehicles) might be a big increase in the incidence of respiratory diseases and cancers over the next couple of decades. Health agencies around the world are starting to take this possibility seriously. I don't mean to scare-monger; I'm just sounding a note of caution about diesel (with an implied plug for green energy).

Today's rather gloomy poem takes it to the stark, dystopian extreme - but in the real world it is all about finding the balance.

Diesel Death
On a gridiron plays a youngster,
his head a hollow, aching sorrow
for the prefabrication of a grave tomorrow,
where gigantic blocks
of cancerous concrete
tower over
tunnels of diesel death.
No green shoots relieve
this brute monotony;
no birdsong challenges
the echoing cacophony
of revving engines, squealing tyres;
no sweet scents stir;
just this fuming pall of diesel,
rising, rising,
invisible and deadly.

On a deathbed lays a sick man,
old before his time,
summer born, now autumn torn,
monolith monstrosities
reflected in his fatalistic eyes.
Though medicines relieve
and mute his symptoms,
no miracle exists
that can reverse
the racking cough
from wheezing lungs;
no faint hope stirs;
just this foul disease
spreading, spreading,
insufferable and deadly.

Thanks for reading. Have a good week and drive less! S ;-)


Anonymous said...

Volkswagen have installed software in their cars that distorts emission results. On average diesel cars give out 400% of the 'claimed' emissions!

Steve Rowland said...

Just announced today: Athens, Madrid, Mexico City and Paris to lead the way in banning diesel-powered vehicles.