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Home / My health / Diesel exhaust causes lung cancer; warns WHO: Report

Diesel exhaust causes lung cancer; warns WHO: Report

Cancer research agency of World Health Organization-WHO classified diesel exhaust as a cancer causing agent. WHO has urged people to reduce human exposure to diesel exhausts. The findings were published after review of eight days by a panel of scientists.

WHO has stated that according to a survey conducted in 2008, approximately 7.6 million people died worldwide due to cancer. Lung cancer accounted for 18 percent of these cancer deaths. Earlier in 1988, International Agency for Research on Cancer -IARC classified diesel fumes as “probably” carcinogenic.

A need for fresh attempts to confirm ill-effects of diesel fumes was felt after results from a study conducted by US National Cancer Institute stated that exposure to diesel fumes increased the risk of death due to lung cancer in miners .

Christopher Portier, Chairperson of the working group at IARC said,

“Diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans”. The UN body also cautioned people about the positive association of this exhaust with increasing risk of developing bladder cancer.

Contracting cancer through diesel exhaust has been attributed to exposure to fumes due to one’s occupation or the surrounding atmosphere. Diesel exhaust can be transmitted from diesel cars, trains, power generators or ships. Portier said that the diesel particulates were as dangerous and could cause many more health problems.

The need is to minimize the risk by least exposure to this chemical mixture worldwide. The agency has left it to the National and International regulatory authorities to stipulate the level of exposure which can be termed ‘carcinogenic’.

The drawback in the review seems to be that the working group has not considered the advances in diesel technology in the last decade while reviewing the older studies. While the nitrogen oxide emission has been scaled down to 99 percent, particulate emission has been brought down by almost 98 percent in the last decade.

According to IARC, more work needs to be done to find out how these low figures of diesel emission elements can still be a cause for health problems.

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