Diesel Exhaust

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What is diesel exhaust?

Diesel exhaust is a very complex mixture of gases and particulates (soot) produced when diesel fuel is burned in an engine.  Diesel exhaust contains approximately 9,000 chemical compounds.  The following compounds are typically found in diesel exhaust:

Who is exposed?        

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that over 1.3 million workers are exposed to diesel exhaust in over 80,000 workplaces in the United States.  These workers include mine workers, bridge and tunnel workers, railroad workers, loading dock workers, truck drivers, forklift drivers, farm workers, and auto, truck, and bus maintenance garage workers.

Does diesel exhaust cause cancer?

In 1988, NIOSH recommended that diesel exhaust be regarded as “a potential occupational carcinogen”.  NIOSH went on to recommend that “all available preventive efforts (including available engineering controls and work practices) be vigorously implemented to minimize exposure of workers to diesel exhaust”.

In two scientific studies reported in 1990 and 1992, NIOSH researchers found evidence that Teamster truck drivers and mechanics exposed to diesel exhaust face an increased risk of lung cancer.  Another recent study found an excess of lung cancer among railroad workers.

Are there safe exposure limits for diesel exhaust?

There are currently no established exposure limits for whole diesel exhaust.  Furthermore, because diesel exhaust is a cancer-causing agent, it is assumed that there is NO SAFE EXPOSURE LEVEL.  It is good practice to eliminate exposure or to reduce exposure to the lowest possible level.

What can be done to reduce exposure?

Occupational exposure to diesel exhaust can be significantly reduced by implementing effective control measures.