The Mutagenic Potential of Diesel and Biodiesel Exhausts

  • Peter M. Eckl
  • P. Leikermoser
  • M. Wörgetter
  • H. Prankl
  • F. Wurst


There is a large body of literature on the association of mutagenicity and carcinogenicity with the use of fossil diesel fuel. For RME (methyl ester of rape oil), on the other hand, there are only a few data available on the mutagenicity of the particle fraction as determined by the Ames-test, which has indicated that RME exhausts are less mutagenic than diesel exhausts. Therefore, we collected samples of the particle and volatile fraction of both diesel and RME exhausts at different engine powers and evaluated the mutagenic potential in metabolically competent rat hepatocytes (endpoints tested: cytotoxicity, mitotic index, induction of micronuclei, chromosomal aberrations and sister chromatid exchanges). In parallel, we determined the mutagenic potential of these samples in the Ames-test (strains: TA 98 and TA 100).

Diesel and RME exhausts were compared in terms of: a) concentration dependence of the cyto- and genotoxic effects and b) mutagenic potential of particle extracts and condensates (volatile fraction) at a sample volume corresponding to one liter of exhaust gas. The results obtained differed with respect to the test system applied: While the results of the Ames-test point to a higher mutagenic potential of diesel exhausts, the hepatocyte assay results indicate both RME and diesel exhaust have high mutagenic potentials. In some cases, i.e. particle extracts collected at idle motion, diesel exhaust induced significantly elevated levels of chromosomal aberrations compared to RME. On the other hand, condensates of diesel exhausts collected at idle motion induced lower levels of chromosomal aberrations. These differences appear to be due to the different cytotoxic potential of the samples, which varied from sampling to sampling, but were generally more pronounced in diesel exhausts.

The potential health risk associated with the use of RME may be lower compared to diesel because diesel exhausts exhibit a higher cytotoxicity and they are more mutagenic in the Ames-test. However, the mutagenic potentials of RME and diesel exhaust in the hepatocyte assay are similar. Because particle emission is significantly lower for RME, their particle associated carcinogenic potential may be lower than that of diesel exhaust.


Chromosomal Aberration Mitotic Index Diesel Exhaust Mutagenic Potential Volatile Fraction 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter M. Eckl
    • 1
  • P. Leikermoser
    • 1
  • M. Wörgetter
    • 2
  • H. Prankl
    • 2
  • F. Wurst
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Genetics and General BiologyUniversity of SalzburgSalzburgAustria
  2. 2.BLT WieselburgWieselburgAustria
  3. 3.FTU Forschungsgesellschaft Technischer Umweltschutz Ges.m.b.H.WienAustria

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