Diesel exhaust fumes do cause cancer, a panel of experts working for the World Health Organization has declared.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) after deciding there was sufficient evidence that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer.
Previously diesel exhaust had been classified as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), but there has been mounting concern about the cancer-causing potential of diesel exhaust based on findings in epidemiological studies of workers exposed in various settings.
After reviewing the evidence, an IARC working group concluded that there were sufficient evidence that diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer and limited evidence of an increased risk of bladder cancer (Group 1). Gasoline exhaust was considered possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).
Although the main studies leading to the decision took place in highly exposed workers, Dr Kurt Straif, head of the IARC monographs program, said: “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.”
Dr Christopher Wild, Director, IARC, said: “This emphasis 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.”
A summary of the IARC’s evaluation will appear in The Lancet Oncology as an online publication ahead of print on June 15, 2012.
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