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Official: diesel emissions ARE carcinogenic
Diesel engine exhaust emissions ARE carcinogenic and long-term exposure to them should be avoided, the World Health Organisation has officially stated.
Exhaust emissions of diesel cars have thus been reclassified as ‘carcinogenic to humans’ and are now given a Group 1 risk factor – the same as alcohol, smoking tobacco and passive smoking.
The report, to be published in the Lancet medical journal later this week, will show the long-term exposure to diesel exhaust emissions provides sufficient evidence that it causes lung cancer, while there is a positive association with an increased risk of bladder cancer too.
Dr Christopher Portier, Chairman of the IARC working Group, said: “The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group’s conclusion was unanimous: diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans.”
The reclassification of diesel exhaust emissions comes after a review into evidence provided by the US National Cancer Institute/National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. This provided compelling evidence that underground miners were at an increased risk of death due to exposure to diesel exhaust emissions.
The WHO thus advises governments worldwide reconsider environmental standards for diesel exhaust emissions, particularly in countries where there are NO regulations in pace.
Less developed countries should be the focus here: the WHO admitted that organisations such as the EU had made great strides in strictly regulating diesel exhaust emissions, particularly in terms of reducing emissions of chemicals and particulates.
However, ‘it is not yet clear how these translate into altered health effects – more research is needed’.
Petrol exhaust emissions remain a Group 2 carcinogen, one that ‘possibly’ cause cancer. This classification has remained unchanged since 1989.
Speaking of the diesel reclassification, Dr Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Program, said: “The main studies that led to this conclusion were in highly exposed workers. However, we have learned from other carcinogens, such as radon, that initial studies showing a risk in heavily exposed occupational groups were followed by positive findings for the general population. Therefore actions to reduce exposures should encompass workers and the general population.”
Another official, Dr Christopher Wild, Director, IARC, added “while IARC’s remit is to establish the evidence-base for regulatory decisions at national and international level, today’s conclusion sends a strong signal that public health action is warranted.
“This emphasis is needed globally, including among the more vulnerable populations in developing countries.”
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