Diesel exhaust emissions carcinogenic, IARC says

World Health Organization finds diesel exhaust emissions cause lung cancer and increase the risk of bladder cancer

June 15, 2012

Diesel exhaust emissions are carcinogenic to humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

Following a week-long meeting of international experts, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the WHO, classified diesel engine exhaust emissions as carcinogenic to humans.

The ruling supersedes a 1988 decision which classified diesel fumes as "probably carcinogenic".

"The scientific evidence was compelling and the working group’s conclusion was unanimous: diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans," IARC Chairman Dr Christopher Portier says.

A statement from the agency says there has been increasing concern of the cancer-causing potential of diesel exhaust emissions based on the findings of studies of workers exposed in various settings.

"The Working Group found that diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer (sufficient evidence) and also noted a positive association (limited evidence) with an increased risk of bladder cancer," the statement says.

IARC Director Christopher Wild says the findings send "a strong signal that public health action is warranted".

"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," he says.

The IARC also upheld a previous finding that petrol engine fumes were "possibly carcinogenic".

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