World Health Organisation: Diesel Engine Exhaust Causes Lung Cancer

Maybe Bladder Cancer Too...

Christine recently wrote an excellent post about the links between diesel pollution and lung cancer. I highly suggest you check it out, as it goes in depth into issue and gives the necessary background to better understand this new decision by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Indeed, the United Nations body has said for the first time that exhaust from diesel engines causes lung cancer. It came to that conclusion after reviewing many scientific studies, finding that there was "sufficient evidence" that diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer, and a positive association ("limited evidence") with an increased risk of bladder cancer.

diesel exhaust fumes truck photo

The WHO's bottom line is:

Dr Christopher Portier, Chairman of the IARC working Group, stated that “The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group’s conclusion was unanimous: diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans.” Dr Portier continued: “Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide.“

Dr Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Program, indicated that “The main studies that led to this conclusion were in highly exposed workers. However, we have learned from other carcinogens, such as radon, that initial studies showing a risk in heavily exposed occupational groups were followed by positive findings for the general population. Therefore actions to reduce exposures should encompass workers and the general population.”

Dr Christopher Wild, Director, IARC, said that “while IARC’s remit is to establish the evidence-base for regulatory decisions at national and international level, today’s conclusion sends a strong signal that public health action is warranted. 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.”

While modern diesel vehicles do better than old ones, they still are pretty dirty, and many old diesel engines are still in operation around the world, especially in countries where air quality regulations are lax or non-existent. Ideally, the transportation sector would be electrified entirely and the power grid would switch over to clean sources of energy over time, but in the meantime, the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) for big vehicles like buses, garbage trucks, and semi trucks can help with this issue.

Via WHO (pdf), Bloomberg

See also: Study Linking Cancer and Diesel Exhaust, Suppressed for Decades by Industry Lawsuits, Finally Published

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