The World Health Organisation has announced that exhaust fumes from diesel engines do cause cancer.
The France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organisation, had previously labelled diesel exhausts as probably carcinogenic to humans.
Diesel fumes do cause cancer
But now the IARC has labelled exhausts as a definite cause of cancer. It puts diesel fumes in the same risk category as noxious substances such as asbestos, arsenic, mustard gas, alcohol and tobacco.
Experts say the risks of cancer are on a level with passive smoking. Exhausts are definitely a cause of lung cancer, but may also cause tumours in the bladder.
The researchers based their findings on research in high-risk workers like miners, railway workers and trick drivers. It is thought that people working in at-risk industries have about a 40% increased risk of developing lung cancer.
The impact on the wider population, which is exposed to diesel fumes at much lower levels and for shorter periods of time, is unknown. Dr Kurt Straif, also from IARC, said:
"For most of the carcinogens when there is high exposure the risk is higher, when there is lower exposure the risk is lower."
Their 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.
Health officials have now called for governments to act on 'cleaning-up' the exhaust fumes emitted from vehicles, using lower sulphur fuel and more efficient engines.
The UK Department of Health said: "We will carefully consider this report. Air pollutants are a significant public health concern, we are looking at this issue as part of our plans to improve public health."
Cancer Research UK said employers and workers should take appropriate action to minimise exposure to diesel fumes in the workplace.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012