I decided to look up exactly what is in vehicle exhaust, other than CO and CO2. Having already blogged about my confusion over CO2 in exhaust being the deadly buggaboo right now, I found this particularly interesting.
To quote from the Transport Canada website...
Motor vehicle exhaust gas contains carbon monoxide, which is a colourless, odourless gas that is produced by the burning of carbon-based materials such as coal, wood, paper, oil, gasoline, and cigarettes. When inhaled in sufficient quantities, carbon monoxide can cause symptoms that include sensitivity to light, headache, nausea, dizziness, and general disorientation. Visual perception and manual dexterity may also be affected, which can impair driving performance.
In 1971, the Government of Canada imposed limits on exhaust gas emissions at the tailpipe. The initial permissible limit for carbon monoxide was 24.1 g/km, which was lowered in 1975 and then again in 1987 to 2.1 g/km, where it remains today. As a result of emissions controls, motor vehicles were equipped with catalytic converters, which convert carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide, a harmless gas.
Although the reason for imposing emissions controls was to protect the environment, an unanticipated benefit has been a steady reduction in the number of deaths from accidental exhaust gas poisoning each year. From a high point of 162 deaths in 1973, accidental poisonings declined to 20 fatalities in 1999, the most recent year for which statistics are available.So today, we're supposed to be freaking out over the CO2 from our cars, but the CO2 is there because it's been converted from the deadly CO, reducing pollution and accidental CO poisoning.
How ironic is that!
I did find out the components of vehicle exhaust in this pdf file.
The major components of vehicle exhaust gases include carbon (as very small particles),
unburned hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides,
water vapor, and thousands more “low-level” chemicals. The peculiar odor of diesel exhaust is
due to aldehydes, acrolein, and sulfur compounds. Gasoline engines generally produce more
carbon monoxide than diesel or turbine engines; diesel and turbine engines produce higher
levels of nitrogen oxides.
The use of emission control measures from fuel regulation, to air injection and catalytic
conversion of the exhaust gases, greatly affects the types and amounts chemicals found in the
You find find out more about the individual components at this Alberta Government website.