Along with gasoline, diesel fuel is among the most common forms of fuel for vehicles. Used primarily in trucks, boats and buses, diesel fuel can potentially be dangerous to those who come into contact with it on a regular basis. From refinery workers to petrol station attendants, the effects of working with diesel fuel should be made known to people who handle it often.
It is difficult to work with or around diesel fuel without inhaling vapours. Diesel vapours are lighter than air and rise from tanks and puddles, making them easy to breathe in. Inhaling vapours can have many effects, including causing nausea, headaches, a lightheaded feeling, and eye irritation. Diesel fuel fumes can also lead to difficulty concentrating and a loss of appetite. All of these effects are partly due to the reduced oxygen levels that comes from breathing unclean air.
When diesel fuel comes into contact with a person's skin it can cause various problems. While generally minor, these include skin irritation, a burning sensation and redness. Over time, diesel fuel can cause skin to dry out and become flaky or itchy.
Some of the more severe problems associated with working with diesel fuel come from accidentally ingesting it. If ingested food or drink is contaminated with diesel fuel it can cause abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. In extreme cases, ingesting diesel fuel can result in vomiting blood and severe stomach irritation. In addition, a burning sensation in the nose, throat and eyes can accompany ingesting even a small amount of diesel fuel.
Most people who work with diesel fuel also come into contact with diesel exhaust on a regular basis. This exhaust can have several health effects. Diesel exhaust contains particulate matter that can be inhaled, causing respiratory problems, eye irritation and can contribute to cardiovascular disease. Diesel emissions also contain nitrogen oxides, which can cause coughing and lead to reduced lung capacity over time. The National Toxicology Program has stated that diesel exhaust is likely a carcinogen (See References 1).