‘Clean-burning’ Fuels May be Worse for Your Lungs

December 16, 2016

Nala Rogers for 'Inside Science'

A report about artificial lung reveals surprising dangers from pellet burners and diesel-fueled ships at the University of Rostock and Helmholtz Zentrum München in Germany.

Government policies encourage people to use supposedly “clean” fuels, such as processed wooden pellets for heating homes and diesel for powering ships. But these measures may do more harm than good for human health, according to recent research. In a series of experiments with human lung cells, researchers found that low-emission fuels can be highly dangerous because of the particular types of particles they contain. In this report, Zimmermann and his Colleagues constructed an artificial lung by growing human lung cells on a nutrient broth. They burned various fuels using different kinds of engines, then pumped the exhaust directly onto the cells. Zimmermann's team isn't the first to expose lung cells to combustion products, but their setup is especially realistic.


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