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Diesel Fumes Carcinogenic, WHO Agency Declares

Jun 15th, 2012

Diesel fumesExhaust fumes from diesel engines cause cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared on Tuesday. The ruling places diesel exhausts on the same level with other carcinogens such as alcohol, tobacco, asbestos, wood dust, and x-rays.

The agency based its decision on research involving high-risk individuals like miners, metal workers, welders, gas station attendants, and truck drivers. These workers were found to have a 40 percent increased risk of developing lung cancer.

The IARC is part of the World Health Organization and previously listed diesel exhausts as “probably carcinogenic.”

The change of status is a significant step towards addressing the concerns of those who are heavily exposed to diesel exhaust, especially those who live in developing countries, where clouds of exhaust from vehicles, generators, and machinery are still common.

Rich nations like the United States have less problems concerning exhausts because they use modern diesel engines which emit less toxic fumes. They also impose stricter guidelines for industries regarding workers’ exposure to diesel fumes.

“The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group’s conclusion was unanimous, diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans,” said Dr. Christopher Portier, the group’s leader. “Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide.”

The effect of exposure to diesel fumes at lower levels and shorter periods, which is how the wider population is exposed, is still unknown. However, Dr. Kurt Straif of the IARC expressed a general consensus: “For most of the carcinogens when there is high exposure the risk is higher, when there is lower exposure the risk is lower.”

Lobbyists for the diesel industry have contested the study’s results citing that the data used for the study were mostly the subjects’ recollections.

Diesel engine manufacturers say that there have been major innovations in their technology that helped reduce vehicle emissions by more than 95 percent over the past decade.

“Diesel exhaust is only a very small contributor to air pollution. In southern California, more fine particles come from brake and tire wear than from diesel engines.” the diesel group said in a statement.

For the united states which is currently implementing  Health insurance Reform , the findings will be used by both supporters and proponents of the law. Supporters will certainly see reform  as a necessity to protect the public with new evidence of diesel fumes as a carcinogenic. While proponents will focus  on the additional burdens placed on  the health insurance system and how this will only further tax the American public.

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