Diesel exhaust can cause cancer: WHO

Diesel exhaust can cause cancer: WHO

Exhorting authorities concerned to shield human beings from diesel exhaust, the cancer research agency of WHO has warned that people stand a greater chance of contacting cancer on being exposed to such fumes than cigarette smoke.

Reclassifying fumes emanated from diesel engines as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), the International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) in France claimed that exposure to such exhaust increases susceptibility to lung cancer.

The announcement was made after a week-long meeting by experts to assess 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,” 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,” he concluded.

“It’s on the same order of magnitude as passive smoking,” said Kurt Straif, Director of IARC’s Monographs Program, a department that evaluates cancer risks.

The experts concluded that petrol or gasoline exhaust is “possibly” carcinogenic, a reiteration of its previous assessment in 1989.

The announcement was welcomed by 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,” Walker was quoted as saying by the “Daily Mail.”

“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,” he reportedly said.

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