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Posted by on in Epidemiology
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World Health Organization Upgrade of Diesel Engine Exhaust as Known Human Carcinogen

June of 2012 became a milestone in occupational and environmental health when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) upgraded their cancer classification of diesel engine exhaust (DEE) from "probable" to "known" human carcinogen. The evidence rating had been stalled at "probable" due to confounding effects of cigarette smoking in the available epidemiology studies finding a link between DEE exposure and a small increase in lung cancer risk. This change in evidence was clearly orchestrated and funded in large part by NIOSH between 2009 and 2012 when government funding of research seemed to otherwise be at an all-time low. Also unusual was the fact that the key studies by NIOSH were published simultaneously with the IARC upgrade decision in June, leaving no time for the underlying science to be critiqued. The orchestrated appearance of this move has the odor of political influence using the 'back door' pathway through IARC. In other words, U.S. interests may be able to more easily convince European scientists that such a regulatory status change is approprite, and this change ultimately tracks back to regulatory decisions in the United States. A similar path was perhaps followed when IARC designated dioxin as a known human carcinogen despite their agreement that the epidemiologic data to prove that was "limited." Regardless of the road traveled to get DEE to its new 'known human carcinogen' status, this change may have sweeping implications on regulation and litigation of air pollution in the United States. DEE exposures are widespread and the liability may be traced to diverse emission sources from the burning of diesel in virtually every aspect of industry and commerce. I recently presented a technical information webinar on the key considerations and underlying scientific studies behind the IARC decision if you would like to learn more.
Tagged in: carcinogen diesel IARC
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