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.