Diesel Engine Particles and Health by Sonja Boland, Armelle Baeza-Squiban and Francelyne Marano
Air quality has become a major issue in the environmental policy of industrialized countries.
Indeed, a set of presumptions, based on epidemiological studies carried out over the last twenty years, makes it possible to establish a probable relationship between certain pollutants such as atmospheric particles and mortality or morbidity of respiratory and cardiovascular origin.
However, it is not always easy to establish a clear causal relationship between a given pollutant and a health effect. Diesel particles have been rapidly implicated in the worsening of respiratory diseases such as asthma, as their small size allows them to access the deep lung.
Recent experimental studies have shed light on the molecular mechanisms underlying the inflammatory response induced by these particles. These could go through the production of activated species of oxygen that play
a central role, currently recognized, in many diseases.
A better understanding of the participation of different constituents of particles in this inflammatory response should allow to define effective strategies of depollution. This research on the cellular and molecular response to complex materials such as Diesel particles is a good illustration of the new directions of modern toxicology, which is increasingly aimed at providing a mechanistic basis for toxic events.