Diesel exhaust exposure could increase lung cancer risk

By Tom Nordlie • Published: February 7th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For most of us, being exposed to diesel motor exhaust means catching a whiff of odor from a bus.

But in some occupations, diesel exhaust is part of the work environment.

Those jobs include diesel mechanic and mining maintenance worker.

Diesel exhaust contains billions of tiny particles that can go deep into the lungs.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies diesel exhaust as probably carcinogenic.

Now, a paper published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine finds a link between lung cancer and diesel exhaust.

Researchers looked at previously collected data.

They examined files on more than thirteen-thousand lung cancer patients, and sixteen-thousand controls.

The participants were classified by occupation.

Each occupation was rated for potential diesel exhaust exposure.

The researchers also reviewed participants’ health histories and looked for confounding factors such as smoking.

Compared with people who never encountered diesel exhaust at work, those with the most exposure had about thirty percent higher incidence of lung cancer.

Fortunately, the risk may be reduced in the future.

First, diesel engines can run on biodiesel fuel, made from plant or animal material.

Biodiesel produces less particulate matter than diesel made from oil.

Also, in 2012, some European countries will modify their regulations for on-the-job exposure to diesel exhaust. Now, there will be limits on the NUMBER of particles, as well as the total mass of airborne material.

Perhaps other nations will follow suit.

The saying goes, “it’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it.”

That’s true.

But those workers need environmental protection after they clock in.