The world's most prestigious cancer
research group on Tuesday classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to
humans and concluded that exposure is associated with increased risk of lung
The International Agency for
Research on Cancer - part of the World Health Organization - made the
announcement at a meeting in France, finding, in part, "that diesel
exhaust is a cause of lung cancer, and also noted a positive association with
an increased risk of bladder cancer. The Working Group concluded that gasoline
exhaust was possibly carcinogenic to humans."
The California Air Resources Board
came to the same conclusion in 1998, finding that particulates associated with
diesel emissions from trains, trucks, tractors and construction equipment pose
a hazard to public health. That decision was met with an outcry from fuel
producers and other industry groups who argued that regulating diesel emissions
would cripple California's economy.
When the state's Scientific Review
Panel made that determination 14 years ago, it was the first official agency to
connect diesel to cancer, according to John Froines, who chairs the review
panel, which identifies toxic air contaminants for the state.
Froines, a professor of public
health at UCLA, said that Tuesday's announcement will be difficult to refute
because the International Agency for Research on Cancer is known to be
conservative and careful about its pronouncements.
"The implications of this
decision are immense," he said. "That agency is the most prestigious
scientific organization in the world. If it says diesel is a human lung
carcinogen, you can be sure they are undoubtedly correct.
"What happens next?"
Froines speculated. "In the United States, one would hope that the
Environmental Protection Agency would adopt the same stance, and that other
states would follow IARC's lead. You would hope that it would be taken up by