Toxicological evaluation of exhaust emissions from light-duty vehicles using different fuel alternatives in sub-freezing conditions

Henri Hakkarainen (Corresponding Author), Päivi Aakko-Saksa, Maija Sainio, Tuukka Ihantola, Teemu J. Rönkkö, Päivi Koponen, Topi Rönkkö, Pasi I. Jalava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Emissions from road traffic are under constant discussion since they pose a major threat to human health despite the increasingly strict emission targets and regulations. Although the new passenger car regulations have been very effective in reducing the particulate matter (PM) emissions, the aged car fleet in some EU countries remains a substantial source of PM emissions. Moreover, toxicity of PM emissions from multiple new types of bio-based fuels remain uncertain and different driving conditions such as the sub-zero running temperature has been shown to affect the emissions. Overall, the current literature and experimental knowledge on the toxicology of these PM emissions and conditions is scarce. Methods: In the present study, we show that exhaust gas PM from newly regulated passenger cars fueled by different fuels at sub-zero temperatures, induce toxicological responses in vitro. We used exhaust gas volume-based PM doses to give us better insight on the real-life exposure and included one older diesel car to estimate the effect of the new emissions regulations. Results: In cars compliant with the new regulations, gasoline (E10) displayed the highest PM concentrations and toxicological responses, while the higher ethanol blend (E85) resulted in slightly lower exhaust gas PM concentrations and notably lower toxicological responses in comparison. Engines powered by modern diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) yielded the lowest PM concentrations and toxicological responses. Conclusions: The present study shows that toxicity of the exhaust gas PM varies depending on the fuels used. Additionally, concentration and toxicity of PM from an older diesel car were vastly higher, compared to contemporary vehicles, indicating the beneficial effects of the new emissions regulations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalParticle and Fibre Toxicology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


This project has received funding from the Academy of Finland (grants: 319245, 294081, 287982), Business Finland (1466/31/2019), the University of Eastern Finland Doctoral School, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 814978.


  • Compressed natural gas
  • Diesel
  • Emissions
  • Gasoline
  • In vitro toxicology
  • Particulate matter


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