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Do diesel fumes cause lung cancer?

Diesel fumes may have the same carcinogenic properties as asbestos and other similar harmful substances, according to a new release from the World Health Organization. If this is the case, it is not just professional truck drivers who are at an increased risk of contracting lung cancer, but every driver and passenger who travels on streets and highways in Illinois and throughout the country.

For many people, this is nothing new: the potentially harmful properties of diesel fumes have long been suspected by doctors, medical researchers and the public. But now, new research seems to have confirmed those suspicions. In the study, non-smoking participants who were exposed to diesel fumes were about seven times more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer than other non-smokers.

This places diesel in a category with asbestos and second-hand cigarette smoke in terms of the potential carcinogenic effects.

Because diesel is used in so many industries and locations in the U.S. and around the world, the results of this study could have wide ramifications. For example, diesel is used in several different types of vehicle, ranging from trucks, trains and ships to farm equipment.

There is one piece of good news surrounding diesel technology: the potential for exposure is not as bad in the U.S. as in other countries, where outdated or inferior diesel technology is placing citizens at a much higher risk. Yet as businesses and government officials continue to search for ways to become more energy-efficient, it is likely that the use of diesel fuel will only continue to increase in the coming months and years.

Source: 11Alive Atlanta, "W.H.O. says diesel fumes cause cancer," Keith Whitney, June 22, 2012

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