Diesel-engine exhaust can cause cancer
Fumes from diesel engines have been classified as carcinogenic, experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) have concluded.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found sufficient evidence that exposure to diesel exhausts is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. They also noted limited evidence that exposure could lead to an increased risk of bladder cancer.
The IARC had previously categorised diesel exhausts as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’. The updated classification follows the findings earlier this year of a US study of occupational exposure to such emissions in underground miners, which showed an increased risk of death from lung cancer in exposed workers.
The IARC also warns that people are not only exposed to motor-vehicle exhausts but also to exhausts from other diesel engines, including other modes of transport, such as diesel trains and ships, and from power generators.
Dr Christopher Portier, who led the assessment, said: “The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group’s conclusion was unanimous: diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans.
“Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide.”
Dr Christopher Wild, an IARC director, called for more action to protect populations from the risks of diesel fumes. He said: “This emphasis is needed globally, including among the more vulnerable populations in developing countries where new technology and protective measures may otherwise take many years to be adopted.”
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