by Alex Gibson

A study has found diesel fumes could be responsible for as many as six per cent of all lung cancer deaths in the UK and USA.

Researchers from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands published a study that found people exposed to diesel exhaust fumes as part of their occupation account for 4.8 per cent of all lung cancer deaths in the UK and US. People who live on or near major roadways account for a further 1.3 per cent of lung cancer deaths in those countries.

In total, the study claims 11,000 deaths may be attributable to diesel fumes.

Truckers and miners regularly exposed to diesel exhaust fumes are at particular risk of terminal lung cancer, with researchers estimating their risk could be up to 70 times higher than is considered acceptable by US health safety standards.

An estimated 21 people in every 10,000 who live alongside highways are also at risk of dying from the disease, compared with one in every 100,000 people who breath air that meets air quality standards.

To produce the findings, the researchers used data from three previous studies about truckers and miners, and compared them to national death statistics in the UK and US.

“With millions of workers currently exposed to such levels, and likely higher levels in the past, the impact on the current and future lung cancer burden could be substantial,” the study said.

Last year, the World Health Organisation concluded diesel exhaust fumes are definitely carcinogenic. Strict emissions regulations in Europe, where diesel cars are particularly popular, means diesel engines are becoming increasingly ‘clean’, in many instances emitting less air pollution than their petrol counterparts.

The study does acknowledge one key limitation of its findings: they do not take into account the smoker status of lung cancer patients.




  • Tom

    4.8% isn’t exactly a majority… Sounds more like a coincidence than anything else.

    • Darryl

      And I would have thought that more than 1.3% of people live near major roadways.

      • sunshine

        The article didn’t say “1.3% of people live on major roads”. It says “People who live on or near major roadways account for a further 1.3 per cent of lung cancer deaths in those countries.”

    • Phil

      the big flaw is not accounting for smoker status. If you don’t isolate smokers in the figures they’re naturally suspect.

      • Ivn

        Absolutely. That is one major oversight and thus renders this study’s results void and un-useable.

  • Sumpguard

    Propaganda. Highly efficient diesel engines don’t suit the oil industry ‘s quest to get it all out the ground NOW.

    • Karl Sass

      “An estimated 21 people in every 10,000 who live alongside highways are also at risk of dying from the disease, compared with one in every 100,000…..”

      That is a statistically very significant increase, diesel being a carcinogen has been known for a long time. Pity because I like diesel engines.

      • Sumpguard

        I wonder how many people world wide are addicted to petrol sniffing?

    • barry

      Latest researth from Cambridge University saids this is only the tip of the iceberg in relation to diesel emissions.Killing Bees and destroying our food chain or 25% of it.

  • svd

    This study is phony. It is full of “coulds” and is the type of thing a teacher might give a student as suggestion for avenues of investigation before a study is carried out. Most of the articles I have read in recent times have been where a fresh look has been taken on old data from the early 90′s predating common rail diesels. Prior to this innovation diesels just got richer once past the peak volumetric efficiency point as there was nothing to reduce the quantity of diesel injected based on cylinder to cylinder air volume.

  • hiluxdriver

    Clean diesel engines? It’s like saying clean dirt
    I hate diesels, they stink.
    I’ve seen some of the latest model diesel cars with so-called filters produce filthy black smoke when they are revved hard. Diesel exhaust fumes definitely smell worse than petrol cars too. no wonder diesels are carcinogenic

    • Rod

      I bought a new 23 tonne truck recently, its Euro5 and actually you can’t smell a thing. It uses Adblue which is non-toxic (Mercedes started using this in its cars also) and there is not even any black stuff in the exhaust, it looks brand new still after almost a year so if this truck can be that clean I wonder if these new diesels are much cleaner than petrol engines?

  • marc

    It would be interesting to find out which org funded the study. Theres generally a financial motive in these ‘studies’.

  • Steven

    Diesels should be banned in passenger vehicles, just use it in heavy machinary and commercial vehicles. All these emission standards are making diesel more dangerous as the carcinogenic particles are getting smaller and travelling further into the lungs