The World Health Organization has concluded that diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer, a move that could significantly impact the proliferation of diesel engine vehicles in North America.
Part of the WHO, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, has reclassified diesel exhaust from probably a carcinogen to a carcinogen, and also noted that it could have a positive association with an increase risk of bladder cancer. Gasoline exhaust on the other hand, is classified as a possible carcinogen.
This isn’t the first time diesel has been connected to cancer. Back in 1998, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) came to the same conclusion, but heard an outcry from fuel producers and other industry groups, arguing that regulating diesel would cripple the state’s economy. However, this will make a bigger impact on diesel engines as a whole, since the International Agency for Research on Cancer is not only a lot bigger than CARB, but is known to be conservative with its conclusions.
The WHO did not say what the concentration of diesel exhaust is harmful, but the new ranking puts the black smoke in the same category as asbestos and arsenic and lists it as more harmful than second hand smoke.