Unions have called for urgent action to protect workers and the public from diesel exhaust fumes after the common workplace hazard was confirmed as a proven cause of cancer in humans. An expert panel convened by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a United Nations body, announced on 11 June that diesel had been reclassified as a top rated 'Group 1' carcinogen. Dr Christopher Portier, who led the panel, said: 'The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group's conclusion was unanimous, diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans. Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide.' A statement from the panel noted: 'The Working Group found that diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer (sufficient evidence) and also noted a positive association (limited evidence) with an increased risk of bladder cancer.' In the run up to the panel's deliberations, industry groups had run a costly campaign to cast doubt on the evidence, commissioning and publishing a series of reviews of the research and sending representatives to the panel sessions. But the IARC panel wasn't swayed and its decision proved the need for action, unions said. A TUC spokesperson said: 'This research proves categorically what many unions have claimed for years which is that exposure to diesel exhaust is a significant workplace killer. Unfortunately many employers see diesel exposure as being something they can do nothing about. This is not the case. A lot of the heavy exposure in places like garages and workshops can be easily prevented through ensuring that engines are always turned off when idle, installing proper exhaust ventilation and by scheduling regular preventive maintenance.' He added: 'We need urgent action from the government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to ensure that measures are taken to reduce the high levels of exposure to these dangerous fumes in our workplaces.' An HSE discussion paper in May 2012 estimated there were 652 deaths from occupational diesel exposure due to lung and bladder cancer, with around 100,000 workers exposed. GMB senior safety representative Brian Terry, speaking at the union's congress this week, said: 'GMB calls on the HSE to take immediate, decisive action to safeguard the many workers who will be worried by this report.' Workers at high risk include professional drivers, miners, construction, tunnelling and railway workers.
IARC news release [pdf] and interviews, video casts and report, IARC Monographs - volume 105, Diesel and gasoline engine exhausts and some nitroarenes. GMB news release. The Pump Handle and related article on the industry's bid to undermine the evidence. OH-world.org. The Scotsman. BBC News Online.
Briefing document (500 words) issued 15 Jun 2012
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-21121-f0.cfm
printed 25 May 2013 at 13:40 hrs by 184.108.40.206