As many as 64,000 premature deaths occur each year from cardiopulmonary causes attributable to particulate air pollution, according to NRDC estimates. Most particulate emissions result from burning fossil fuels — coal, oil, diesel, gasoline — or wood. Old coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers, diesel and gas-powered vehicles and wood stoves are some of the worst culprits.
Used in motor fuels, solvents, detergents, pesticides and many other substances, benzene is a carcinogen that causes leukemia as well as a number of other illnesses. Virtually the entire U.S. population is exposed to benzene in at least small amounts — at gas stations (it’s in the gasoline), in diesel exhaust or from cigarette smoke, including second-hand smoke. Benzene also a problem in a number of workplaces, including oil refineries, coal-coking operations at steel mills, chemical processing plants, rubber manufacturing plants and laboratories, where it is often used as a solvent for other chemicals