Study Finds Deisel Fumes Associated with Lung Cancer Risk

According to a Los Angeles Times report, the study titled Diesel Exhaust in Miners examined the effects of diesel exhaust exposure to non-metal miners from the mid-1960s until 1997. It found that miners exposed to the highest levels of diesel fumes faced the greatest risk of developing lung cancer. Although researchers were able to associate a link between even low levels of diesel fume exposure to lung cancer, those with the highest levels of exposure face up to a 3-times greater risk of the life-threatening disease.

Even low levels of exposure to the suspected carcinogen elevated the risk of lung cancer by 50 percent, the study noted. The lower levels of exposure to elemental carbon, as noted by the study, are the equivalent to what a non-miner might experience in the hub of a large city.

Diesel fumes exposure was determined by exposure to elemental carbon among the miners. Other toxic agents like asbestos, dust, radon, and more also had an impact on the likelihood of lung cancer, but not at the rate seen with diesel fumes exposure. Further, the miners who exhibited higher levels of diesel fume exposure were more likely to die as a result of complications caused by lung cancer.

The LA Times report on the study, which appears in the latest edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, suggests the International Agency for Research on Cancer will discuss potentially re-classifying diesel exhaust from a “possible” carcinogen to a “known” cancer-causing agent. An official with NCI told the source that enacting stricter regulations on diesel engines can help to reduce the risks posed by the toxin and that California has recently enacted new standards aimed at reducing diesel exhaust by 90 percent by the end of the decade.

That may be good news for Californians but to those whom the study was based, the news is certainly more troubling. Miners aren’t typically able to enjoy the benefit of strict safety regulations and diesel-powered machinery is more standard today than it was in the 1960s, when this type of equipment was introduced on a wider level. This means workers like coal miners and other industrial employees are being exposed to high levels of diesel exhaust on a daily basis and likely will face a much greater risk of developing severe forms of lung cancer that can be fatal.

The use of diesel fuel has also entered the controversies surrounding hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling. Diesel fuel is one of the 60 or more known toxins used in the fracking process though most wells are able to employ its use without having to disclose as much. People living within a mile of an active fracking well face a greater risk of suffering adverse health effects and this study lends itself as evidence that diesel fumes released from a well site could be contributing to that.

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