Diesel fumes are a major cancer risk according to The World Health Organisation

Diesel exhaust fumes can cause cancer and should be reclassified into the same deadly category as asbestos and mustard gas, according to The World Health Organisation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer released a statement yesterday saying that there are huge number of people breathing in diesel fumes and that the status of it should be altered from ‘probably carcinogen’ as it was declared back in 1989, to ‘carcinogen’.

Experts and health officials now argue there is enough evidence to show that consistent exposure to diesel fumes is just as damaging as passive smoking, in terms of causing cancer and that governments all around the world should consider action on how to effectively ‘clean up’ the fumes from vehicle exhausts.

This comes after a week-long series of meetings by an expert panel selected by the IARC, who studied new scientific evidence that showed diesel fumes should be in the same category of risk as arsenic, asbestos, alcohol, tobacco and mustard gas.  It is thought that particles in an exhaust can trigger inflammation in the lungs, and then lead to lung cancer. Kurt Straif, director of the IARC, indicated that groups particularly at risk include lorry drivers, railway workers, mechanics, miners, ship passengers and crew, those operating heavy machinery and even just pedestrians.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, gave her opinion on the latest developments, “This report, from an international panel of experts, sends a clear message that diesel fumes can cause lung cancer. The evidence of harmful health effects of diesel, particularly for people exposed to high levels through their jobs, has been accumulating for many years. But, the overall number of lung cancers caused by diesel fumes is likely to be a fraction of those caused by smoking tobacco. In the UK there are already guidelines in place to protect employees from the harmful effects of diesel fumes. Employers and workers should take appropriate action to minimise exposure in the workplace.”

The furore has been met with some disdain with some car and truck manufacturers around the world, who argue that the diesel fuel engines on their vehicles are continually being refined and that the fumes should have a less high-risk classification because of tighter emission standards. Moreover, Professor Ken Donaldson from the University of Edinburgh, says that cigarette smoke is still far more deadly. He says, “For the man on the street, nothing has changed. It’s a known risk but a low one for the average person, so people should go about their business as normal, you could wear a mask if you want to, but who wants to walk around all the time with a mask on?”

At Medical Specialists Pharmacy, we are well aware of the dangers that smoking and second-hand smoking can cause to a person’s health. Back in March we studied the links between smoking and asthma, and back in 2011 we looked at the connections between smoking and birth defects. If you would like help in stopping smoking, Medical Specialists Pharmacy provide medication for this. ‘Champix’ is a prescription medication that mimics the effect of nicotine on the body, reducing the urge to smoke and relieving withdrawal symptoms. It can also decrease the enjoyment you experience of smoking if you are still smoking whilst on the treatment. Studies have shown 44% smokers who used champix on a daily basis where able to quit smoking.

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