The Effects of Exhaust Fumes

Updated March 23, 2017

Whether you drive your own car or ride the bus, just about everyone deals with exhaust fumes on a constant basis. Exhaust fumes come from inefficiencies within the internal combustion engine and can have some serious short-term and long-term health consequences. You can take some preventive measures to reduce exhaust fumes and may even save money in the process.


Exhaust fumes come from the burning of fossil fuels in internal combustion engines, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Sarah Carter. Automobiles do not efficiently use all of the gasoline that you put in the tank. The ignition stroke of an engine needs to occur at a certain time, otherwise the power of the stroke is too weak and some gas is left over and removed as exhaust.

Global Warming

Exhaust fumes contain carbon dioxide and methane, gases that help create the greenhouse effect which contributes to global warming. Although the world's ecosystem needs some greenhouse gases to warm the earth, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that humanity produces too many greenhouse gases. Global warming could make some parts of the earth inhospitable and cause extreme weather conditions in the next century.


The same effects of exhaust that lead to global warming also pose a serious health risk, according to the EPA. Exhaust fumes sometimes form ozone at ground level that causes or exacerbates respiratory illness. Exhaust can also cause indirect health risks associated with extreme weather. An increase in warm weather breeds more mosquito-borne illness like malaria, reports the EPA.


Exhaust fumes often settle at ground level as "particulate matter" that not only gets caught deep within the lungs but reduces visibility, according to the EPA. Particulate matter from exhaust forms the "haze" that one often sees in high-pollution cities such as Los Angeles. Haze makes roads harder to drive on and decreases the aesthetic appeal of a city.


The EPA has a few tips for consumers to reduce the amount of exhaust fumes they emit. When purchasing a vehicle, consider one of the types of clean-urning vehicles on the market. Also, reduce the weight of the car by taking out unnecessary cargo and try not to idle your car too much. Use public transit options whenever possible.

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About the Author

Russell Huebsch has written freelance articles covering a range of topics from basketball to politics in print and online publications. He graduated from Baylor University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.