Diesel exhaust causes lung cancer, says WHO
Inhaling fumes from diesel engines can cause lung cancer; the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared, confirming a concern that was first raised in 1988.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of WHO, announced the findings on Wednesday. Christopher Portier, Chairman, IARC Working Group, stated in a release, “The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group’s conclusion was unanimous: diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans.” Adding to this he said, “Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide.”
WHO noted that in 1988, IARC had classified diesel exhaust as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’, but another internal group had recommended that the decision on the safety of diesel exhaust should be revaluated as priority. WHO said, “There has been mounting concern about the cancer-causing potential of diesel exhaust, particularly based on findings in epidemiological studies of workers exposed in various settings. This was re-emphasised by the publication in March, 2012, of the results of a large US National Cancer Institute/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study of occupational exposure to such emissions in underground miners, which showed an increased risk of death from lung cancer in exposed workers.”
The scientific evidence was reviewed thoroughly by IARC, and it concluded that there is sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of diesel exhaust. The agency found that diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer, and also noted a positive association with an increased risk of bladder cancer. Indicating that just having cleaner diesel fuel may not solve the problem of its hand behind causing cancer, WHO noted, “It is not yet clear how the quantitative and qualitative changes (in quality of diesel) may translate into altered health effects; research into this question is needed. In addition, existing fuels and vehicles without these modifications will take many years to be replaced, particularly in less developed countries, where regulatory measures are currently also less stringent. It is notable that many parts of the developing world lack regulatory standards, and data on the occurrence and impact of diesel exhaust are limited.”