Exhaust fumes from diesel engines can cause cancer: WHO

Exhaust fumes from diesel engines are more carcinogenic than secondhand cigarette smoke and could cause cancer, the cancer research agency of WHO has warned and appealed for action to reduce human exposure to it.

The France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) also reclassified diesel engine exhaust fumes as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) from its group 2A of probable carcinogens based on sufficient evidence that its exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer.

The IARC announcement came after a week-long meeting of independent experts who assessed the scientific evidence on the cancer-causing potential of diesel and gasoline exhausts.

The experts put diesel fumes in the same risk category as noxious substances such as asbestos, arsenic, mustard gas, alcohol and tobacco.

"The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group's conclusion was unanimous: diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans," Dr Christopher Portier, Chairman of the IARC working Group, said in a statement.

"Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide," Dr Portier concluded.

"It's on the same order of magnitude as passive smoking," said Kurt Straif, director of the IARC's Monographs Program, a department that evaluates cancer risks.

"This could be another big push for countries to clean up exhaust from diesel engines."The IARC experts also concluded that exhaust fume from petrol, or gasoline, was possibly carcinogenic, a finding unchanged from its previous assessment in 1989.

The announcement was welcomed by Dr Lesley Walker of the Cancer Research UK. "This report, from an international panel of experts, sends a clear message that diesel fumes can cause lung cancer," Dr Walker was quoted as saying by 'Daily Mail'.

"The evidence of harmful health effects of diesel, particularly for people exposed to high levels through their jobs, has been accumulating for many years.

"But, the overall number of lung cancers caused by diesel fumes is likely to be a fraction of those caused by smoking tobacco. Employers and workers should take appropriate action to minimise exposure in the workplace."

Comments (+)