Researchers have shown how exhaust pollution from diesel engines is able to affect nerves within the lung.

Diesel exhaust is a significant component of urban air pollution, containing a complicated mixture of gases and airborne particles. “Studies have shown that exposure to these diesel particles is associated with harmful health effects,” says Ryan Robinson. “These particles are very small – down to 20 nanometres in diameter – and are therefore not only invisible to the naked eye, but can penetrate deep into the lungs.”

The lungs contain numerous sensory nerves that can detect potentially harmful stimuli and thus allow the body to respond, for example by triggering a cough. “However, we know that these nerves can also be involved in exacerbating respiratory conditions, for example by causing the bronchi to constrict in diseases such as asthma,” says Mr. Robinson.

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