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Diesel exhaust and lung cancer in the trucking industry: exposure-rsponse analyses and risk assessment.

Steenland K; Deddens J; Stayner L
Am J Ind Med 1998 Sep; 34(3):220-228
Diesel exhaust is considered a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The epidemiologic evidence rests on studies of lung cancer among truck drivers, bus drivers, shipyard workers, and railroad workers. The general public is exposed to diesel exhaust in ambient air. Two regulatory agencies are now considering regulating levels of diesel exhaust: the California EPA (ambient levels) and the Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA) (occupational levels). To date, there have been few quantitative exposure-response analyses of diesel exhaust and lung cancer based on human data. We conducted exposure-response analyses among workers in the trucking industry, adjusted for smoking. Diesel exhaust exposure was estimated based on a 1990 industrial hygiene survey. Past exposures were estimated assuming that they were a function of 1) the number of heavy duty trucks on the road, 2) the particulate emissions (grams/mile) of diesel engines over time, and 3) leaks from trucks' exhaust systems for long-haul drivers. Regardless of assumptions about past exposure, all analyses resulted in significant positive trends in lung cancer risk with increasing cumulative exposure. A male truck driver exposed to 5 g/m3 of elemental carbon (a typical exposure in 1990, approximately five times urban background levels) would have a lifetime excess risk of lung cancer of 1-2%, above a background risk of 5%. We found a lifetime excess risk ten times higher than the 1 per 1,000 excess risk allowed by OSHA in setting regulations. There are about 2.8 million truck drivers in the U.S. Our results depend on estimates about unknown past exposures, and should be viewed as exploratory. They conform reasonably well to recent estimates for diesel-exposed railroad workers done by the California EPA, although those results themselves have been disputed.
Diesel exhausts; Diesel emissions; Carcinogens; Epidemiology; Lung cancer; Truck drivers; Trucking; Shipyard industry; Shipyard workers; Railroad industry; Regulations; Exhaust gases; Combustion gases; Author Keywords: diesel exhaust; lung cancer; risk assessment
Kyle Steenland, NIOSH, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226
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Journal Article
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NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Research Tools and Approaches; Exposure Assessment Methods
Source Name
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Page last reviewed: March 3, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division