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WHO Agency Classifies Diesel Exhaust As 'Carcinogenic'

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO’s cancer arm, on Tuesday announced it has reclassified diesel engine exhaust from “probably carcinogenic” to “carcinogenic,” the U.N. News Centre reports, noting the decision came “after a week-long meeting of international experts, and [the agency] based its decision on sufficient evidence that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer” (6/12). “IARC said large populations all over the world are exposed to diesel exhaust every day,” Reuters notes. “‘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,’ it said,” according to the news service (Kelland, 6/12).

“Diesel exhaust now shares the WHO’s Group 1 carcinogen status with smoking, asbestos, ultraviolet radiation, alcohol, and other elements that pose cancer risks,” the New York Times writes (McNeil, 6/12). Kurt Straif, who heads the carcinogen identification and evaluation unit of IARC, said, “It’s on the same order of magnitude as passive smoking. This could be another big push for countries to clean up exhaust from diesel engines,” according to the Associated Press (Cheng, 6/12).