Shawcity Limited

WHO report on diesel fumes puts sharp focus on need for effective monitoring

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The World Health Organisation this month reclassified the dangers of diesel exhaust fumes, upgrading the risk from probably carcinogenic to a definite cause of cancer. The WHO report is based on the findings of research on workers in high risk areas, and puts a sharp focus on the need for effective monitoring in industries such as mining, rail, transportation, construction, power generation and others where there is a reliance on diesel as a source of fuel.

To meet this need, Shawcity offers a range of Ion Science instruments, which offer the industry’s fastest, most accurate and most reliable detection of hazardous compounds, helping to highlight any risk that might exist in the workplace as part of an effective industrial hygiene programme.

The research into diesel exhaust fumes was conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organisation. It concluded that diesel exhausts were definitely a cause of lung cancer, and may also cause tumours in the bladder. IARC said the evidence was overwhelming and that the Working Group’s conclusion was unanimous. It is reckoned that people working in at-risk industries have about a 40% increased risk of developing lung cancer.

The reclassification moves diesel exhaust fumes up from group 2A of IARC’s five-step cancer risk gradation to group 1, the highest level possible, putting it in the same group as compounds such as benzene, ethylene oxide, vinyl chloride and over 100 other chemicals and agents known to cause cancer.

Diesel exhaust fumes have long been thought to be a cancer risk. In addition to lung cancer, long term exposure is thought to pose dangers including asthma and other lung diseases, heart disease and immune system disorders. Even short term exposure may lead to respiratory distress, asthma symptoms and increased sensitivity to other allergens such as dust or pollen, and eye or skin irritation.

Diesel exhaust contains both unburned diesel fuel and particulates or soot from burning the diesel fuel. For workers in high risk industries where there is known to be long term exposure, the need to monitor diesel exhaust effectively has never been more acute. Right now there are no defined legal concentration limits for exposure to diesel exhaust fumes, and there will be many industries where industrial hygiene plans have not yet been defined to take diesel exhaust dangers into account. But the good news is that there are proven, reliable and cost-effective instruments available that can help ensure effective industrial hygiene, so minimising the risk in environments where diesel exhaust could be a health hazard.

Any location where diesel exhaust fumes are thought likely or possible to be a problem can be regularly monitored with either hand-held or fixed-in-place detectors that can send the information directly to a control system. A survey might identify possible sources of high emissions that should be monitored with hand-held instruments. Further, the use of hand-held instruments should be used regularly to sweep for ‘hot spots’ or high concentrations.

Finally, there are wearable detectors that monitor the breathing space of the individual employee, measuring the levels of harmful compounds that the individual is exposed to as he or she moves around....


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