Diesel Exhaust Now Linked Directly to Cancer
Diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer – so says the World Health Organization in their June 12, 2012 press release IARC: Diesel Engine Exhaust Carcinogenic. Listen to the audio recording of the press briefing on June 12, 2012. WHO also noted an association between diesel emissions and an increased risk of bladder cancer.
The WHO’s science panel recently upgraded the status of diesel exhaust to an outright “carcinogen” from “probable carcinogen” in an important shift in its public health policy.
“It’s on the same order of magnitude as passive smoking,” said the director of the department that evaluates cancer risks, Kurt Straif. “This could be another big push for countries to clean up exhaust from diesel engines.”
Railway Workers Specifically Mentioned
Straif said that there could be many cases of lung cancer connected to diesel emissions, with fumes affecting a broad cross section of people, including railway workers.
What About Neighbouring Residents?
“The main studies that led to this conclusion were in highly exposed workers,” continued Straif. ”However, we have learned from other carcinogens, such as radon, that initial studies showing a risk in heavily exposed occupational groups were followed by positive findings for the general population. Therefore actions to reduce exposures should encompass workers and the general population.”
With idling locomotives, and frequently prolonged exposure to fumes being the number one complaint we receive here, Straif’s comments further add to the mounting body of evidence of the associated health risks connected to diesel emissions. The fumes from idling locomotives should be placed squarely in the crosshairs of our regulatory agencies for the public good.
Currently in Canada, the noise and vibration from idling locomotives bears consideration in the assessment of rail-related complaints from affected citizens, but not diesel exhaust.
With the reclassifying of diesel exhaust into the carcinogenic category, it shares the same distinction as both asbestos and ultraviolet radiation.
Risk Linked to the Amount of Exposure
“It’s pretty well known that if you get enough exposure to diesel, it’s a carcinogen, said Ken Donaldson, a University of Edinburgh professor of respiratory toxicology in “WHO’s cancer agency: Diesel fumes cause cancer”.
Donaldson, who was not part of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) panel decision that led to the upgraded carcinogenic status by the World Health Organization, also said that the thousands of particles, including some harmful chemicals in diesel exhaust could cause inflammation in the lungs, and that this could lead to cancer.
Donaldson further linked that the more the exposure to diesel exhaust, the higher the risk of human health consequences.
What’s the Risk to Residents?
For residents living in around rail yards, with idling locomotives belching soot and fumes, often for hours on end, it all adds up to an increasingly questionable and unacceptable cumulative health risk.
It’s time to place restrictions on locomotive idling and protect residential air quality and the environment. No more excuses – it’s not acceptable to leave locomotives idling for hours in proximity to homes, to farmland, or other environmentally sensitive areas.
No Excuses for Second Hand Smoke
It’s a completely ludicrous suggestion by the railways to shrug off their second hand smoke upon their neighbouring residents by suggesting that they restrict ventilation to their own homes during stifling hot weather and keep their doors and windows sealed in order to keep the railway’s own pollution out.
Either shut down your dirty idling diesel engines, or build idling sheds to contain them. There’s plenty of technology currently available for year-round automated locomotive shut downs.
There’s nothing very “green” about rail operations given the exposure to exhaust and affected air quality that far too many Canadians are having to put up with – in and around their own homes.
It’s time for railways to clear the air, literally.
© Copyright 2012 RailandReason.com