Diesel exhausts was classified from ‘probable’ carcinogens to a group of substances that have definite links to cancer. The France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, reclassified it.
The announcement has caused consternation among car and truck manufacturers, who claim that diesel fuel engines are constantly being refined.
The experts, who said their decision was unanimous and based on ‘compelling’ scientific evidence, urged people across the world to reduce exposure to diesel fumes as much as possible.
The expert said in a statement: ‘The (expert) 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 decision is a result of a week-long meeting of independent experts who assessed the latest scientific evidence on the cancer-causing potential of diesel and gasoline exhausts.
It puts diesel fumes in the same risk category as noxious substances such as asbestos, arsenic, mustard gas, alcohol and tobacco.
‘It’s on the same order of magnitude as passive smoking,’ said Kurt Straif, director of the IARC department that evaluates cancer risks.
‘This could be another big push for countries to clean up exhaust from diesel engines.’
Christopher Portier, chairman of the IARC working group, said the group’s conclusion ‘was unanimous, that diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans’.
‘Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide,’ he said in a statement.
The group pointed to a large U.S study published in March 2012 that found occupational exposure to diesel fumes increased the risk of death from lung cancer among underground miners.