man at work

Biodiesel Safer for Workers than Diesel

A new study shows that workers around the exhaust from biodiesel have reduced exposures to health risks than those exposed to petroleum diesel exhaust.

New Hampshire’s Keene State College did the study entitled, “Biodiesel versus Diesel: A Pilot Study Comparing Exhaust Exposures for Employees at a Rural Municipal Facility,” and Biodiesel Magazine reports that a B20 blend “dramatically reduces work area respirable particle and formaldehyde levels compared with petroleum diesel.”

The team of researchers that completed the study used the same facility equipment and alternated between diesel fuel and a B20 blend, measuring the equipment cabin and the perimeter of the work area for known toxins such as benzene, 1,3-butadiene and formaldehyde. During the process, the researchers noted two areas of difficulty in the testing approach, “limited measurements of existing human exposure and difficulty developing techniques to identify a unique signature that distinguishes diesel exhaust from background air pollution.” The techniques used to measure for pollutants involved a high-sensitivity real time light scattering monitor called a Haz-Dust EPAM-5000 along with various filters. For sampling days, “researchers and students performed equipment calibrations before and after sampling, positioned the equipment in the same locations, and regularly performed operational checks on all of the equipment.”

Four pieces of equipment were in the study, a large front-end loader, a small front-end loader, a skid steer and a propane-powered forklift, and the same employees operated the equipment for the duration. The facility consisted of a single, large building with one large bay door and no mechanical ventilation. “Although biodiesel may hold promise for reducing exposure to PM and carbonyls, more comprehensive biodiesel data are needed to determine if these reductions are replicable and statistically significant,” the study notes. However, while the study states that diesel effects are still somewhat unknown, “Biodiesel may offer immediate, nationwide risk reduction opportunities, even as the debate regarding the level of health risk posed by diesel continues.”