Is Diesel Carcinogenic?

To determine if a drug or exposure causes cancer, two types of studies are utilized.

  • Animals are exposed to a drug (sometimes in very large quantities) in lab experiments to discover if it creates tumors or other health problems. Researchers may potentially test the chemical on normal cells in a lab dish to determine if it triggers the same alterations identified in cancer cells. Although it’s not always apparent whether the findings from these research will apply to humans, lab tests are an excellent way to see if a drug has the potential to cause cancer.
  • People’s studies: Another type of study examines cancer rates in various categories of people. A study like this may compare the cancer rate in a group exposed to a material to the cancer rate in a group that wasn’t exposed to it, or it could compare it to the cancer rate in the general population. However, because numerous other factors may influence the outcomes, it can be difficult to tell what these research’ findings signify.

In most situations, neither type of study gives adequate proof on its own, therefore when trying to figure out if something causes cancer, researchers look at both lab-based and human studies.

Results of studies in the lab

Diesel exhaust (in the form of soot or chemical extracts) has been discovered to cause DNA alterations in cells in lab dishes. Although not all drugs that cause DNA mutations also cause cancer, these changes are usually required for cancer to occur.

In lab animals such as rats, long-term, high exposure to diesel exhaust has been shown to induce lung cancer in several studies.

Results of studies in people

It’s difficult to research the consequences of diesel exhaust on people’s health. To begin with, accurately defining and measuring the level of exposure is frequently difficult. Other cancer risk factors that people exposed to diesel exhaust may have, such as smoking, can be difficult to account for.

Lung cancer

The most common cancer linked to diesel pollution is lung cancer. Several studies of diesel-exposed employees have found minor but significant increases in lung cancer risk. Men who are exposed to the most chemicals and for the longest periods of time, such as railroad workers, heavy equipment operators, miners, and truck drivers, have greater lung cancer death rates than those who are not. Diesel exhaust may offer a significant health risk based on the number of persons exposed at work.

There hasn’t been much research done on the probable link between lung cancer and diesel pollution outside of the workplace.

Other cancers

Several studies have looked into the possibility of a link between diesel pollution and malignancies of the bladder, larynx (voice box), esophagus, stomach, and pancreas. Cancers of the blood system, such as lymphomas and leukemias, have also been studied (including childhood leukemia). Some research have discovered possible connections, whereas others have not. To see if diesel exhaust exposure is linked to any of these other malignancies, more research is needed.

What expert agencies say about diesel exhaust

Several national and international organizations investigate environmental contaminants to see if they can cause cancer. (A carcinogen is a chemical that causes or aids in the growth of cancer.) These organizations are entrusted by the American Cancer Society to assess the hazards based on evidence from laboratory, animal, and human research studies.

Some of these expert agencies have classed diesel exhaust as carcinogenic or non-carcinogenic, based mostly on the possibility of lung cancer.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is in charge of cancer research (WHO). Its main goal is to figure out what causes cancer. Diesel engine exhaust is classified as “carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), based on adequate evidence that it is connected to an increased risk of lung cancer. There is also “some evidence of a positive connection” between diesel exhaust and bladder cancer, according to the IARC.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is made up of components from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (FDA). Based on limited evidence from human research (mostly associating it to lung cancer) and supportive evidence from lab studies, the NTP has classed diesel exhaust particles as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

The Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) is an electronic database maintained by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that provides information on human health impacts from exposure to numerous compounds in the environment. Diesel exhaust is classified by the EPA as “likely to be harmful to humans.”

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is a division of the CDC that investigates occupational hazards. Diesel exhaust has been classified as a “potential occupational carcinogen” by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

(See Known and Probable Human Carcinogens for further information on these agencies’ classification systems.)

Is diesel fuel harmful to humans?

Long-term exposure to diesel pollution can increase your risk of acquiring asthma, a variety of lung disorders, heart disease, as well as problems with your brain and immune system. Exposure to diesel exhaust particles rendered those with allergies more vulnerable to the elements to which they were allergic, such as dust and pollen, in investigations with human volunteers. Lung inflammation may result from exposure, worsening persistent respiratory symptoms and increasing the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.

Is diesel a Class 1 carcinogen?

Diesel exhaust was reclassified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2012 from Group 2A (possibly carcinogenic to people) to Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans). Since then, reevaluation and reanalysis of two major studies that influenced the International Agency for Research on Cancer evaluation (Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study and Trucking Industry Particle Study) have replicated the original findings and demonstrated the suitability of these epidemiologic data for the quantitative risk assessment needed to set safe exposure limits in occupational and outdoor ambient environments. The problem now is to safeguard workers and the general public in metropolitan areas against diesel exhaust’s carcinogenicity.

Is diesel particulate matter a carcinogen?

Diesel engines release a complicated mixture of pollutants, including diesel particulate matter, which is made up of very minute carbon particles or “soot” covered with a variety of chemical compounds (PM). More than 40 cancer-causing chemicals are found in diesel exhaust, the majority of which are readily adsorbed onto soot particles. Because of its potential to cause cancer, California designated diesel PM as a hazardous air pollutant (TAC) in 1998. The National Toxicology Program, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health have all found that diesel exhaust causes cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization issued the most recent evaluation in 2012. (IARC). The International Agency for Research on Cancer’s exhaustive literature evaluation concluded that diesel engine exhaust is “carcinogenic to humans,” confirming and supporting California’s earlier TAC determination.

Diesel engine emissions are thought to be responsible for almost 70% of the estimated cancer risk attributed to harmful air pollutants in California. 1 Furthermore, diesel PM accounts for around 8% of outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5), a known health danger. Diesel PM, which makes up a large portion of PM2.5, has been linked to a variety of health effects, including higher hospital admissions, mainly for heart disease, but also for respiratory ailments and even premature mortality. According to 2ARB, diesel PM causes about 1,400 (95 percent confidence interval: 1,100-1,800) premature deaths from cardiovascular disease in California each year. 3 Furthermore, exposure to diesel exhaust may lead to the development of new allergies; a clinical trial of human participants found that diesel exhaust particles, when combined with probable allergens, can induce new allergies that did not exist before.

Is diesel exhaust worse than gas?

Diesel generates somewhat more pollutants per gallon than gasoline, to put it simply. However, as is often the case, the simpler response does not convey the whole story when it comes to diesel vs. gasoline emissions. The truth is that gasoline emits more emissions and pollutes the environment more than diesel.

Nonetheless, when it comes to comparing diesel and gasoline emissions, the simplest response is the best place to start. Standards of measurement and terminology are required to determine even the simplest — albeit inaccurate — answer as to which of the two fossil fuels produces more pollution. When comparing diesel and gasoline emissions, a consistent unit of measurement is needed: gallons. Another required is a definition — a list — of emissions.

Diesel emits a larger amount of emissions per gallon than gasoline, practically without exception. In reality, gasoline pollutes the environment more than diesel. That is also an undeniable fact. “Despite the fact that diesel fuel contains somewhat more carbon (2.68kg CO2/litre) than petrol (2.31kg CO2/litre), overall CO2 emissions from a diesel vehicle are lower. In practice, this amounts to around 200g CO2/km for gasoline and 120g CO2/km for diesel.”

What is the explanation for this? Although a gallon of diesel provides significantly more energy than a gallon of gasoline, the amount of emissions produced by each fuel differs very slightly when burned.

Gasoline produces more emissions per gallon than diesel, but not by much. Determining emissions per gallon, on the other hand, is of little use. The argument that gasoline engines generate fewer pollutants than diesel engines because fewer emissions result per gallon is based on the assumption that the fuel density of both diesel and gasoline is the same.

Arguing that gasoline generates fewer emissions than diesel because diesel emits more emissions per gallon requires that a gallon of diesel and a gallon of gasoline produce the same amount of power and effort. However, this is not the case. The amount of energy produced by a gallon of diesel is significantly greater than that of a gallon of gasoline.

In other words, the amount of gas generated per gallon is not the most essential factor in determining emissions. The ratio of emissions per unit of energy produced is what matters.

To put it another way, if gasoline emits only 3% less emissions per gallon than diesel, yet gasoline only runs an engine 70% as far or for as long as diesel per gallon, gasoline is the greater polluter. “Diesel fuel has about a 10% to 15% higher energy content than gasoline. As a result, diesel vehicles may generally travel 20% to 35% further on a gallon of gas than their gasoline counterparts.”

It is simple to comprehend why gasoline engines damage the environment more than diesel engines in a few simple stages, but a definition of emissions is required before the difference between diesel and gasoline emissions can be determined.

Gases the Combustion of Diesel and Gasoline Emits

When fossil fuels are burned, hundreds of gases are released into the atmosphere. Some, on the other hand, are rather benign in terms of human health and global warming.

Others, on the other hand, are exceedingly poisonous or have a large global warming potential. However, because of the little amount produced during fossil fuel combustion, many hazardous and harmful gases are not worth much worry. Because the number is so small, discussing these gases just serves to obscure the issue when it comes to actually harmful and dangerous emitting gases.

There are six (6) gases emitted by diesel and gasoline that have a significant impact on global warming, the environment, and human health.

Carbon Dioxide and the Non-Toxic, Benign Greenhouse Gases

When individuals come into contact with automobiles and equipment, there are three main emissions that are harmless. However, these three gases have a significant role in global warming and climate change. Despite the fact that other gases created by human activities have a higher impact on global warming, these are the three most harmful greenhouse gases produced by diesel and gasoline burning.

Carbon dioxide is the most well-known greenhouse gas produced by fossil fuel burning. Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas in the atmosphere. It is a result of non-human activity such as forest fires caused by lightning, volcanic eruptions, and biological emissions from the oceans. Despite this, CO2 is the most significant contributor to global warming among all gases created by human activity.

However, this does not imply that CO2 is the most potent greenhouse gas (GHG). Many other GHGs have a stronger global warming potential than CO2, yet CO2 is the gas produced in the greatest quantities.

Whether nitrogen gas should be considered an emission is a point of contention. Nitrogen makes up 78 percent of the atmosphere’s entire makeup. The majority of nitrogen gas released into the atmosphere as a result of fossil fuel burning is nitrogen gas that previously existed, N2 that was pulled into an engine through the air intake and passed unmodified through the engine.

N2 is still a greenhouse gas. N2 is also a greenhouse gas with a strong potential for global warming. N2 is a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion engines, however in minor levels.

Though it may appear that having water vapor in the air is a beneficial thing, it is a significant contributor to global warming. During burning, the hydrocarbons — hydrogen and carbon chemical molecules — in fossil fuels undergo one of two fundamental chemical changes: conversion to water (hydrogen and oxygen chemical compounds).

Water vapor has a global warming potential XXX times that of carbon dioxide.

Toxic Greenhouse Gases Produced in Large Quantities during Fossil Fuel Combustion

Again, there are a huge number of highly harmful greenhouse gases that are not created in big numbers. There are three, however, that are both poisonous and created in huge quantities during the burning of fossil fuels.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is both a greenhouse gas with potential for global warming and a deadly gas that damages humans and animals. When little amounts of CO are inhaled, it causes headaches and nausea. Large doses can lead to heart attacks and death in both animals and humans.

Carbon monoxide is not a greenhouse gas in the traditional sense. CO, unlike CO2, has a low potential for global warming. CO, on the other hand, interacts with hydroxyl radicals (OH) and renders them inert. Because they break down greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane, hydroxyl radicals are positive gain agents in the environment.

When CO kills OH radicals, those radicals are no longer able to mitigate the global warming impacts of greenhouse gases with a high global warming potential.

Oxides of nitrogen, such as nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, can cause airway inflammation and other respiratory problems. Furthermore, while nitrogen oxides may not have a great potential for global warming, “NOx gases are involved in the generation of smog and acid rain, as well as fine particles (PM) and ground-level ozone, both of which are linked to negative health impacts.”

Unburned fuel escapes into the atmosphere because no engine can capture 100% of the potential energy in a fossil fuel – that is, no engine can burn all of the fuel that flows through it. Smog is simply unburned gasoline molecules that have been evaporated.

In animals, vaporized volatile organic compounds have been shown to cause cancer, and they are suspected of doing the same in people. HealthLinkBC reports that “VOCs are a group of compounds that can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as causing headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and skin problems. At higher quantities, the lungs may become irritated, as well as the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.

Some VOCs have been shown to cause cancer in animals and are thought to cause cancer in humans. The physiological consequences of VOCs are dependent on the concentration and amount of time spent in contact with the compounds.”

Of course, there are many more greenhouse gases. Methane, for example, is the most powerful greenhouse gas on the planet, accounting for 90 to 98 percent of all natural gas. However, carbon dioxide, nitrogen gas, and water vapor have the greatest global warming potential when diesel and gasoline fuels are used. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons are all examples of pollutants.

Emissions Types and Amounts from Diesel and Gasoline Emissions

Without catalytic converters, petroleum-powered engines emit huge amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides. Diesel engines, meanwhile, do not.

Fuel and Emissions Technologies Reduce Emissions Dramatically

Without fuel and emissions technologies, gasoline combustion produces less power, higher pollutants, and more harmful emissions than diesel combustion. That changed with the invention of the catalytic converter. Despite the fact that catalytic converters cut emissions, there is a cost. Vehicles with catalytic converters run less efficiently, consume more gasoline, and emit more CO2.

“The development of catalytic converters, which degrade pollutants like CO to less dangerous gases like CO2, has drastically decreased emissions from gasoline cars.” When compared to petrol automobiles without catalysts, catalyst cars emit significantly less CO, HC, and NOx, at the expense of CO2 emissions, which rise as carbon monoxide is oxidized to CO2.”

Diesel engines, on the other hand, emit modest levels of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides.

No Argument for Favorability of Gasoline Engines Over Diesel with Respect to Emissions

The diesel emissions versus gasoline debate is hardly a debate, especially when considering the technologies that reduce diesel emissions — emissions data for gasoline engine emissions is almost always taken from tests on vehicles with catalytic converters, as catalytic converters are an international requirement for vehicle manufacturers —

Diesel engines are both cleaner and more efficient than gasoline ones.

Can diesel exhaust make you sick?

Diesel exhaust can have an instant negative impact on one’s health. Coughs, headaches, lightheadedness, and nausea can all be caused by diesel pollution, which irritates the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.

International Agency for Research on Cancer

Visit page/publications-monographs/ to learn more about the topics on this list.

  • Asbestos (in all forms) and asbestos-containing mineral substances (such as talc or vermiculite)
  • Oral contraceptives containing estrogen and progestogen (combined) (Note: There is also substantial evidence that these medications protect against cancers of the endometrium and ovary in people.)
  • Types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59 of the human papillomavirus (HPV) (infection with) (Note: The HPV types that have been classified as carcinogenic to humans can differ by an order of magnitude in risk for cervical cancer)
  • Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) is also known as Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) (infection with)
  • PUVA is a combination of methoxsalen (8-methoxypsoralen) and ultraviolet A light.
  • 4-(N-Nitrosomethylamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone and N’-Nitrosonornicotine (NNN) (NNK)
  • The Southeast Asian liver fluke, Opisthorchis viverrini (infection with), is also known as the Opisthorchis viverrini (infection with).
  • PCBs are dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls having a Toxicity Equivalency Factor according to WHO (PCBs 77, 81, 105, 114, 118, 123, 126, 156, 157, 167, 169, 189)
  • Internally deposited radionuclides that produce alpha particles (Note: Specific radionuclides for which there is sufficient evidence for carcinogenicity to humans are also listed individually as Group 1 agents)
  • Internally deposited beta-particle emitting radionuclides (Note: Specific radionuclides for which there is sufficient evidence for carcinogenicity to humans are also listed individually as Group 1 agents)
  • Tamoxifen (Note: Tamoxifen also reduces the incidence of contralateral breast cancer in breast cancer patients, according to reliable research.)

National Toxicology Program 14th Report on Carcinogens

The NTP’s Report on Carcinogens can be found at for more information on the topics covered in this list.

  • KSHV (Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus) is a herpesvirus that causes Kaposi sarcoma (also known as human herpesvirus 8, or HHV-8)

Who list of carcinogenic foods?

There is “convincing evidence” that processed meat promotes cancer, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen and has been linked to colorectal and stomach cancers.

Frankfurter hotdogs, ham, sausages, corned beef, beef jerky, and tinned or lunch meat are all examples of processed meats that are carcinogenic.

  • White fish, white meat like chicken or turkey, or meat substitutes like Quorn, Tofu, or Seitan are also good options.

What are 3 types of carcinogens?

Any of a number of agents that can cause cancer in humans is referred to as a carcinogen. Chemical carcinogens (including those derived from biological sources), physical carcinogens, and oncogenic (cancer-causing) viruses are the three main types.

Do diesel trucks pollute the air?

When diesel fuel is consumed in an engine, the amount of sulfur in the fuel is directly proportional to the amount of pollutants created. Sulfur levels above a certain threshold increase pollution.

The emissions produced when diesel fuel is consumed in engines contribute to air pollution, which has major human health and environmental consequences.

  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx), which contribute to the formation of smog and acid rain at ground level;

This pollution can lead to heart and lung illness, as well as a variety of other health problems. It also has the potential to harm plants, animals, agriculture, and water supplies.