An estimated 130 Australians are diagnosed each year with lung cancer as a result of exposure to toxic diesel fumes while at work, according to the Cancer Council.
“Exposure to diesel fumes is Australia’s second-most prevalent work-based cancer-causing agent,” said Terry Slevin, Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Occupational and Environmental Cancer Committee.
It’s estimated that around 1.2 million Australians are exposed to diesel engine exhaust at work each year and that 130 workers each year are diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of their exposure on the job, he said.
Despite the high number of workers exposed to diesel fumes, few are aware of its health hazards – something Mr Slevin wants changed.
“Awareness of the risks of exposures like asbestos and UV radiation is increasing, and is reflected in gradual improvements in work safety practices.
“By contrast, awareness of the hazards of exposure to diesel fumes is low, especially in relation to the potential harms,” he said.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently upgraded its classification of diesel exhaust to a Group 1 carcinogen, confirming that it is an established cause of cancer in humans.
Workers most at risk include those who work with diesel motor vehicles including buses, tractors, trains and forklifts, especially in enclosed spaces like garages and workshops.
There are also risks for people who work with diesel operated generators, compressors or power plants.
Taking simple steps, such as winding up the window and turning on the air con while driving a diesel vehicle, can reduce your cancer risk, said Mr Slevin.