Diesel Fuel As Dangerous As Mustard Gas, WHO Says

By Amir Khan on June 13, 2012 9:00 AM EDT

Truck
The exhaust fumes from diesel fuel can cause deadly lung cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (Photo: Creative Commons)

Diesel fuel is a carcinogenic, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, said on Tuesday. The exhaust fumes from diesel fuel can cause deadly lung cancer, and experts say it should be considered as dangerous as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas.

"The working group found that diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer and also noted a positive association with an increased risk of bladder cancer," the IARC said in a statement.

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The group looked at the exposure of miners, railway workers and truck drivers and concluded that diesel fuel is "carcinogenic to humans," a grouping that puts it in the same category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas.

Although the IARC only looked at a few professions, it said everyone should work to reduce their exposure to diesel exhaust.

"The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group's conclusion was unanimous, diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans," Dr. Christopher Portier, who led the assessment, told BBC News. "Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide."

Diesel fuel is popular in Europe, and German car manufacturers are attempting to bring the technology into the United States, where they say the fuel is well suited to America's highway driving style. The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association said it was "surprised" by the findings and that it would "have to study the findings in all their details."

"The latest diesel technology is really very clean," Sigrid de Vries. Spokeswoman for the EAMA, told Reuters.

Dr. Otis Brawley, medical director of the American Cancer Society, told the New York Times that simply having a diesel car is not cause for concern.

"I don't think it's bad to have a diesel car," he said. "I don't think it's good to breathe its exhaust. I'm not concerned about people who walk past a diesel vehicle, I'm a little concerned about people like toll collectors, and I'm very concerned about people like miners, who work where exhaust is concentrated."

However, the IARC said people are exposed to diesel exhaust from more than just cars.

"People are exposed not only to motor vehicle exhausts but also to exhausts from other diesel engines...(such as diesel trains and ships) and from power generators," it said, according to Reuters.

Ultimately, more research is needed the IARC said, but in the meantime, people need to limit their exposure.

"Research into this question is needed," it said. "In addition, existing fuels and vehicles without these modifications will take many years to be replaced, particularly in less developed countries, where regulatory measures are currently also less stringent."

The findings will be published in their entirety in the Lancet Oncology on Friday.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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