A Cancer group has just announced that diesel exhaust fumes can cause lung cancer. The respected International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The study’s findings could put pressure on Governments to install stricter emissions guidelines to protect workers exposed to diesel exhausts. IARC has classified diesel engine exhausts as a ‘probable’ carcinogen for over 20 years. Until now no clear proof had existed linking fumes to increased cancer rates.
Scientists have long known that diesel fumes might play a role in the development of lung cancer. Diesel fumes consist of a toxic stew of about 400 chemicals, including Benzene, Formaldehyde, Arsenic, Cyanide and Lead. Breathing large amounts of diesel fumes could cause respiratory diseases and people with asthma and heart disease can experience a worsening of symptoms if exposed to the exhaust.
Two studies were recently published that involved research on more than 12,000 mine workers. The studies were conducted by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Both studies found an increase in lung cancer rates and workers exposed to diesel exhausts under-ground. Greater exposure was also linked to steadily increased cancer rates. One study found that workers with the highest exposure experienced a three-fold risk of death, the other study revealed a five-fold increased risk and even low levels of exposure elevated the risk of lung cancer by 50%.
In addition to lung cancer, long-term exposure can lead to chronic obstructive lung disease. Workers in the trucking industry with an estimated 20 years on the job have an elevated risk of lung cancer with each increasing year of work, due to their diesel fume exposure.