Health Effects of Diesel Exhaust
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in June 2012 that diesel exhaust causes cancer in humans and called for tighter standards. A professor of respiratory toxicology at the University of Edinburgh told CBS News, “It’s pretty well known that if you get enough exposure to diesel, it’s a carcinogen.”
The exhaust from engines burning diesel fuel is a complex mixture of gases and fine particles. Anytime an apparatus is operated inside a building, those toxic substances can be inhaled. Exhaust residue also adheres to walls and other surfaces (clothing, furniture, etc.) and is absorbed through the skin.
Warnings from environmental and occupational agencies:
- The International Mechanical Code (IMC), which serves as a guide for state building codes, requires that all toxic emissions from diesel exhaust be eliminated for the protection of those who occupy the premises.
- More than 40 substances emitted in diesel exhaust are listed as hazardous air pollutants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says these pollutants are “likely to be carcinogenic to humans and are shown to be a chronic respiratory hazard to humans.”
- Based on human and animal studies, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that diesel exhaust be regarded as an occupational carcinogen.
- The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) says that workers exposed to diesel exhaust face the risk of adverse health effects ranging from headaches and nausea to cancer and respiratory disease.
- To eliminate the health threat of diesel exhaust in firehouses, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says “the most effective means is to connect a hose (to the exhaust pipes of all vehicles) that ventilates exhaust to the outside.”
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