Diesel engine exhaust has been classified by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as being carcinogenic to humans. This is based on sufficient scientific evidence that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer.
The IARC Working Group responsible for this finding includes Dr Volker Arlt, a Senior Scientist in the Division of Analytical and Environmental Sciences at King’s College London. The Group performed a rigorous and independent assessment of the science, which included epidemiological studies of individuals who are occupationally exposed to diesel emissions such as miners.
Other findings were a positive association (based on limited evidence) between diesel exhaust and an increased risk of bladder cancer, and that gasoline exhaust was possibly carcinogenic to humans.
People are subjected to diesel exhaust through occupational exposure or simply through exposure to various modes of diesel transport (motor vehicles, trains, ships) and power generators. Whilst regulatory action has introduced tighter emission standards for diesel and gasoline engines in some parts of the world, including Europe and North America, it is not known how reduced emissions, brought about by technological developments, translate to health effects. In addition, in less developed countries, exposure in vulnerable populations continues as a result of less stringent regulatory standards as well as underdeveloped technology and protective measures.
The Chairman of the IARC, Dr Christopher Portier, commented “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."
Item date 13/06/2012