The International Agency for Research on Cancer has Classified Exhaust from Diesel Fuel to be “Carcinogenic to Humans.”

June 22, 2012

After a week of deliberation, a panel of international experts and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a subset of the World Health Organization (WHO), has succeeded in classifying exhaust from diesel fuel as “carcinogenic to humans, Group 1.” This decision is based on “sufficient evidence” that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer. Exhaust from diesel fuel was originally classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans, Group 2,” in 1988; and has been on the “high priority” list for re-evaluation for over a decade. The consortium also found a positive correlation between exposure to exhaust from diesel fuel and bladder cancer (limited evidence). Additionally, it was concluded that gasoline exhaust was “possibly carcinogenic to humans, Group 2B”, a finding unchanged from the previous evaluation in 1989. The IARC warns that exhaust from diesel fuel is particularly dangerous for those living in large, congested cities, and workers who are consistently exposed. In reaction to these significant findings, Dr Christopher Portier, Director of the National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA) and Chairman of the IARC Working Group, states “Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide.” In order to reduce diesel fuel emissions the government must pass a series of regulations that would limit the amount of diesel exhaust that is emitted into the air; and while the past two decades have lead to mounting environmental concerns resulting in worldwide regulatory action, more must be done to tighten emission standards for both diesel and gasoline engines. These regulations have a strong relationship with technology; as manufactures try to oblige these standards to keep their businesses running. For instance, manufacturers of diesel engines have been forced to make required changes in the fuel such as marked decreases in sulfur content, changes in engine design to burn diesel fuel more efficiently and reductions in emissions through exhaust control technology. Despite these technological advances, more research must be done to determine if a reduction in diesel emissions will lessen its detrimental health effects on humans. According to IARC, existing fuels and vehicles without these modifications will take many years to be replaced. This is especially true for developing nations, in which regulatory standards are not enforced or do not exist. Read the entire Press Release here.