WHO: Diesel engine fumes cause cancer

Lyon, France – Diesel engine exhaust is a human carcinogen, an independent agency concluded following a review of studies linking lung cancer to workers who are highly exposed to the fumes.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, announced the classification June 12, declaring that sufficient evidence now exists linking the exhaust to lung cancer. Since 1988, the exhaust had been classified as “probably” carcinogenic to humans, which meant evidence of carcinogenicity was limited.

Noting that studies of other carcinogens – such as radon – initially showed heavy exposure among workers before positive findings for the general population, the IARC working group investigating the link recommended immediate worldwide reduction to diesel particulate exposure.

Railroad workers, truck drivers, vehicle mechanics and underground miners are among workers with potential exposure to diesel exhaust, according to WHO. IARC Director Christopher Wild recommended employers improve ventilation and maintain vehicles, among other steps, to reduce worker exposure to diesel fumes.

The IARC working group also concluded that gasoline exhaust is a possible human carcinogen, a finding unchanged from a 1989 evaluation.

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