University of Vermont Transportation Research Center

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Sustainability of our transportation system depends on making well-informed choices on vehicle energy sources for human and goods mobility. Motor vehicles operating on fossil fuels are a significant source of air pollution risk and challenge the ability of humans to mitigate climate change. Biodiesel is a low carbon fuel substitute for petroleum diesel, but relatively little is known about how exposure to biodiesel combustion particles affects chronic diseases such as asthma and type II diabetes mellitus (T2DM). This study examined the effect of particulate matter (PM) generated by the combustion of commercially available petrodiesel and soybean biodiesel fuels on inflammation and metabolic dysfunction using two types of in vivo experiments. To evaluate inflammation response, oropharyngeal 3-day exposures of females to B20 (20% biodiesel/80% petrodiesel by volume) and B0 (100% petrodiesel) particles from a light-duty diesel engine operating on a semi-transient cycle were followed by lung fluid and tissue biochemical analysis. Prenatal exposure effects on offspring growth and metabolism were evaluated by maternal exposure during gestational days 9-17 (delivery 18-20 days) and monitoring offspring for 12 months. Prenatal exposure to exhaust PM from petrodiesel fuel combustion had different metabolic effects in male vs. female offspring. For B20 exhaust PM, the number of offspring was too low to detect differences. The results of this study suggest that males and females may have differential risk for metabolic dysfunction after prenatal exposure during gestation. Future studies should be conducted to quantify sex-specific effects on exposure to vehicle exhaust PM from biodiesel fuel blends.