W.H.O. ‘Diesel fumes cancerous’
Diesel Fumes: Toxic
The Daily Mail reports a World Health Organization, (WHO) warning that diesel exhaust fumes are a “major cancer risk” and belong in the “same deadly category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas”. Meanwhile the BBC says that diesel fumes are “definitely a cause of lung cancer”.
This widely reported news is based on a decision by the WHO to classify diesel exhausts as a cause of cancer.
The decision was taken by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, (IARC) a panel of experts that co-ordinates and conducts research into the causes of cancer, and develops cancer control strategies.
Under its classification scheme, diesel exhaust was previously categorised as “probably carcinogenic”. The agency now says there is now sufficient evidence that exposure to diesel fumes causes lung cancer. It is calling for exposure to diesel fumes to be reduced worldwide.
While diesel fumes are now officially carcinogenic, the alarmist tone of the Daily Mail’s headline should be viewed with caution because the ‘deadly category’ of substances the Mail describes also includes sunlight and wood dust.
What is diesel and is it used much in the UK?
Diesel oil is a complex mixture of chemicals, mainly distilled from crude oil, although vegetable oil and similar sources can be used to make ‘biodiesel’. It is used as fuel for diesel internal combustion engines, which use compressed hot air to ignite fuel (petrol engines have a spark plug to ignite the fuel).
Worldwide, diesel oil is widely used as a fuel in diesel-powered cars, lorries, trains, aircraft, ships and heavy industry. It is regarded as more efficient than petroleum, resulting in lower fuel consumption. WHO says that many people are exposed to diesel exhaust in everyday life, both through their occupations and in the ambient air.
As of 2007, just over 50% of all new car sales in the UK were diesel, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. In 2004, approximately 700 litres (150 gallons) of diesel was sold every second in the UK, according to a report by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
The amount of pollutants from diesel exhaust fumes, in particular its sulphur content, have been reduced over the last few years, and engines on newer cars are designed to burn fuel more efficiently, reducing emissions. However, the IARC says it is not yet clear how these improvements translate into any changes in the impact of diesel fumes on human health. Existing fuels and older unmodified vehicles will take years to replace, particularly in less developed countries where regulations are less stringent, the IARC says.
Have you been in an accident that was not your fault? Would you like your car repaired without affecting your no claims bonus and without raising your renewal premiums? Click here to start your claim today.