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Diesel Exhaust Linked to Fatal Lung Conditions

Diesel engines are used to run countless vehicles, machines, and equipment throughout the United States. Unfortunately, the exhaust created by diesel engines are laden with harmful chemicals, including carbon monoxide and benzene. Studies suggest that exposure to diesel exhaust can cause severe health problems, including lung cancer.

IS DIESEL EXHAUST CARCINOGENIC TO HUMANS?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not classified diesel exhaust as a definite carcinogen to humans, or Group A. The EPA maintains that diesel exhaust falls into Group B, or “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has determined that diesel exhaust should be treated as a human carcinogen.

Other agencies across the world have determined that diesel exhaust is indeed carcinogenic to humans, including the World Health Organization (WHO). Based on evidence pointing towards an increased risk of lung cancer, WHO has designated diesel exhaust as a carcinogen. The organization’s cancer research agency also believes there is evidence associating diesel exhaust with bladder cancer. In June 2012, WHO changed diesel exhaust’s classification from Group 2 to a Group 1 known human carcinogen.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF DIESEL EXHAUST EXPOSURE?

Short-term exposure to diesel exhaust can cause several acute injuries and illnesses, including:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Coughing
  • Irritation of the eye, nose, and throat
  • Nausea
  • Asthmatic attacks

Long-term, unprotected exposure to diesel exhaust fumes on the job may increase the risk of serious, life-threatening conditions, including:

  • Lung cancer
  • Obstructive lung disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cardiopulmonary disease
  • Respiratory disease

Lung cancer is the major disease believed to be caused by exposure to diesel exhaust. Workers in certain industries have been found to have higher lung cancer fatality rates than workers that have not been exposed to diesel exhaust. In addition, some studies have found links between diesel exhaust and other cancers, including bladder, larynx, esophagus, stomach, and pancreas.

DIESEL EXHAUST IN THE WORKPLACE

The highest exposure of diesel exhaust occurs at the workplace. People in the following industries may be at an increased risk of diesel exhaust exposure:

  • Construction workers
  • Miners
  • Heavy equipment operators
  • Oil and gas workers
  • Railroad workers
  • Tunnel workers
  • Loading dock workers
  • Truck drivers
  • Farm workers
  • Automobile mechanics
  • Tollbooth workers

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