UK & World News
Cancer Risk: Diesel Classed Alongside Arsenic
Diesel engine exhaust fumes can cause cancer and should be categorised alongside known hazards such as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas, the World Health Organisation has said.
The France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) - has reclassified diesel exhausts from its group 2A of probable carcinogens to its group 1 of substances that have definite links to cancer.
Christopher Portier, chairman of the IARC, said the group's conclusion "was unanimous, that diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans".
He added: "Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide."
The WHO statement also said it found a positive association between diesel exposure and increased risks of bladder cancer.
The latest scientific evidence comes after a week-long meeting of independent experts who assessed the cancer-causing potential of diesel and gasoline exhausts.
IARC's director Christopher Wild said the group's conclusion "sends a strong signal that public health action is warranted".
Mr Wild added: "This emphasis is needed globally, including among the more vulnerable populations in developing countries where new technology and protective measures may otherwise take many years to be adopted."
The announcement by the WHO has caused anxiety among car and truck makers.
Sigrid de Vries, a spokeswoman for the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, said she was surprised by the move and the industry would "have to study the findings in all their details".
She said: "These technologies have been developed to address precisely these concerns.
"The latest diesel technology is really very clean."
Diesel cars are popular in western Europe, where tax advantages have encouraged technological advances and a boom in demand.
An IARC statement said: "People are exposed not only to motor vehicle exhausts but also to exhausts from other diesel engines...(such as diesel trains and ships) and from power generators."
General Motors Co said in a statement: "We will continue with our plans to introduce new fuel-saving technologies and engines that run on alternate fuels, including diesel."