Diesel Fumes Can Cause Cancer Says The WHO

Diesel Fumes can cause Cancer says the WHO

It was recognized many years ago that smog was bad for our health, and then somewhat more recently that lead was poisonous and our exposure to it should be minimized, that smoking causes lung cancer, and so on.

Yet people have been positively encouraged to buy diesel cars instead of petrol despite the strong suspicion that the particulates contained therein would be likely to be damaging to health. One wonders whether this has been based more on saving money than safeguarding health, but now, at last, there is seemingly irrefutable evidence that diesel fumes contain both particulates and chemicals that are carcinogenic.

It has taken 20 years or so from the time that diesel fumes were thought to be carcinogenic (cancer producing) to the present time when the World Health Organisation has decreed that they are carcinogenic.

An article explains that, this decision has been reached following a week-long meeting of international experts, who found the evidence of a health risk “compelling”.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) told the press on Tuesday that it had based its decision on “sufficient evidence that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer.

The new decision follows an IARC Monographs Meeting that took place from 5 to 12 June in Lyon, France, and places diesel engine exhaust in Group 1, alongside more than 100 other agents such as tobacco products, asbestos, benzene, UV rays and second-hand smoke. The panel also noted that there was a link between exposure to diesel engine exhaust and higher risk of bladder cancer.

“Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide,” said Porter, who is Director of the National Centre for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The IARC says there is now sufficient evidence for governments and decision makers to formulate environmental standards for diesel exhaust emissions and to work with engine and fuel manufacturers to attain these targets.

Dr Christopher Wild, Director of IARC, said the new ruling “sends a strong signal” for action to protect public health. He said action is “needed globally, including among the more vulnerable populations in developing countries where new technology and protective measures may otherwise take many years to be adopted”.

This judgement on the health risk of diesel fumes has of course, caused some consternation and alarm amongst motor manufacturers who say they have already spent a great deal of money on improving technology, but now that this situation is a major public health concern they will likely have to spend even more money to make exhaust gases cleaner.

Whilst this is likely to happen now and is to be applauded, it is a shame for those who have had 20 years of breathing in these deadly fumes and may be harbouring as yet undetected cancers as a result. Some might say that it is only with the benefit of several epidemiological studies and continuing research that we could be sure about this health risk, but surely it would have been better to err on the side of being safe rather than sorry all those years ago.

If more stringent regulations on diesel emissions had been introduced then it would have forced motor manufacturers to seek the technology to overcome the problem then rather than now.