Let’s look at research showing how the immune system can be weakened by many other components of 20th century living. One circumstance which should cause concern because of its predominance in society and its difficulty in avoidance is car and truck exhaust. Gasoline contains many toxic chemicals such as benzene, xylene, toluene and many other additives. These chemicals are then exposed to high heat and pressure in the engine combustion process forming a number of new very toxic chemicals including some known as "furans" and "polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons," also known as PAH’s. PAH’s contain a toxic chemical called nitrofluoranthene and in a 1987 article in Discover magazine, one EPA chemist, who wished to remain anonymous stated, nitrofluoranthene is "horrendously carcinogenic." In fact, a 1983 symposium in Sweden attended by 40 scientists from around the world agreed that about 10% of all lung cancers were caused by fossil fuel combustion such as that found in vehicle exhaust. Vehicle exhaust also contains a chemical called benzo(a)pyrene which the body converts to benzo(a)pyrene epoxide which is known to be very powerful in mutating cells and causing cancer.

Lower Antibody Production After Exhaust Exposure

The effects of benzo(a)pyrene on the immune system was studied at the Environmental Mutagen Research Laboratory at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research in New Jersey. Dr. Gary Ginsberg and associates exposed test animals to this vehicle exhaust contaminant. Results showed decreases in immune function including lower production of the antibody Igm (Igm is the first antibody produced by the immune system in response to viruses). The researchers stated their evidence supported the idea that the decrease in immune system function was..."due to changes in the DNA of the white blood cells." Remember, it is the DNA and Genes that control the white blood cell movements and function.

Macrophage Interferon Reduced

In other research involving vehicle exhaust and the immune system, Dr. John Sullivan, Medical Director of the University of Arizona Health Science Center, stated in a 1989 report that automobile exhaust lowered the interferon levels produced by macrophages. (Remember, interferon stimulates other body cells to resist virus infection and also enhances the natural killer cells ability to destroy virus infected cells and cancer cells.)

Influenza Rate Higher After Diesel Exposure

Diesel exhaust contains different toxic chemicals than gasoline exhaust. A 1985 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that lab animals had an increased virus growth rate after exposure to diesel exhaust. Three groups of mice were exposed to low level diesel exhaust for 1 month, 3 months and 6 months. Another group was not exposed to any diesel exhaust. The animals subjected to diesel exhaust for 3 and 6 months showed higher levels of influenza virus infection and lower interferon levels.

Special Interests Win Again

Protecting the publics health from vehicle exhaust has been a difficult fight. Although lead in gasoline was known to be a potent nervous system toxin for many years and had been linked with reduction in children’s I. Q. and other health problems, it wasn't until 1985 that it was removed from gasoline. By passing and revising the Clean Air in 1977, Congress has tried to find a way to force EPA to clean up the heavy exhaust generated from large vehicles. When EPA finally made an attempt to do this, it was sued by the Engine Manufacturers Association and several Engine Makers for being too severe, thereby stalling the issue further. Again, financial interests win out over the public’s health.