Men who worked as diesel mechanics in New England prior to the 1980s may be doubly at risk for developing mesothelioma, according to research that indicates diesel fuel contains a carcinogen that can be nearly as dangerous as asbestos exposure.
New England mesothelioma lawyers understand that for diesel mechanics, the risk was then two-fold. Many would have been exposed to asbestos dust and fibers while on the job, breathing in the toxic compound. In many cases, those fibers also clung to their clothing, which they then wore home and unknowingly exposed their families. But now, it appears that diesel fumes, too, put them at risk.
Now for years, International Agency for Research on Cancer (also known as the IARC, a subsidiary of the World Health Organization), has maintained that diesel fuel was a likely carcinogen, meaning a compound that causes cancer. However, there had never been any definitive research indicating this was true.
However, new studies were recently published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Cancer Institute that both looked at more than 12,000 cave workers. These studies are known as the Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study, or DEMS.
What those researchers discovered was there was a marked increase in lung cancer rates for workers who were exposed to underground diesel exhaust. In fact, those who had more exposure were more likely to die of lung cancer. In one study, researchers found the workers who suffered the highest exposure were three times as likely to die of cancer, while the other study found they were five times as likely.
Those within the mining industry say this research won’t hold any weight with regard to current practices, as the numbers examine worker exposure from the 1950s through the 1990s. During that time, workers often used dirtier and older equipment. Advances in technology, representatives said, mean mineworkers are no longer exposed to the same toxins, and since 2008, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has enforced rules on maximum exposure per worker.
And advances in working conditions have also improved for auto mechanics. However, that does nothing for those who were likely exposed to the cancer-causing compounds years ago. Given the long incubation period of mesothelioma – it is almost always decades before the cancer is diagnosed and is soon fatal upon discovery – we’re going to continue seeing mechanics who were exposed years ago just now becoming sickened.
While the National Resources Defense Council, as well as the Diesel Technology Forum both estimate that diesel emissions have been chopped by nearly 99 percent in newly-manufactured engines, there are still many, many older engines that are still in use – particularly in developing countries.
The studies didn’t indicate an exact level at which the diesel fumes are harmful, but scientists suggest that the risks shoot up even when there is moderate exposure.
Researchers also expressly stated that while their studies focused on mine workers, the risk is not limited to them. In fact the next group that is more likely at risk are the heavily-exposed occupational groups (such as diesel mechanics) followed by the general population.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
WHO: Diesel exhaust can cause cancer, By Caleb Hellerman, CNN
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New England Mesothelioma Appeals Verdict Questioned in Gallagher v. Nat’l Grid USA/Narragansett Elec., June 8, 2012, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog