Friday, June 22, 2012

All that diesel fume

This horrendous traffic scene is a common sight in Metro Manila.  This photo shows the underpass at C.M. Recto and Quezon Boulevard – at the heart of University Belt near Quiapo Church.  One can only imagine the collective diesel fumes from the exhausts of the busses, jeepneys and cars in such traffic build-up.

Passersby and pedestrians can quicken their steps so as to be away from the area soonest, but the poor passengers of those mass transit vehicles have no option but to sit out the traffic and breathe in all those carcinogenic fumes.
This is one aspect of Metro Manila that can be unsettling health-wise – the ubiquitous diesel fumes. However, same can be said nowadays about the environmental state of every major city in the country.

According to a Healthland Time article, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency recently declared diesel fumes can cause cancer; a ruling making exhaust as important a public health threat as secondhand smoke.

The Heartland article by Maria Cheng of Associated Press goes on to say, "The risk of getting cancer from diesel fumes is small, but since so many people breathe in the fumes in some way, the science panel said raising the status of diesel exhaust to carcinogen from 'probable carcinogen' was an important shift.

“It’s on the same order of magnitude as passive smoking,” said Kurt Straif, director of the IARC department that evaluates cancer risks. “This could be another big push for countries to clean up exhaust from diesel engines.”

Since so many people are exposed to exhaust, Straif said there could be many cases of lung cancer connected to the contaminant. He said the fumes affected groups including pedestrians on the street, ship passengers and crew, railroad workers, truck drivers, mechanics, miners and people operating heavy machinery.

The new classification followed a weeklong discussion in Lyon, France, by an expert panel organized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The panel’s decision stands as the ruling for the IARC, the cancer arm of the World Health Organization.

The last time the agency considered the status of diesel exhaust was in 1989, when it was labeled a “probable” carcinogen. Reclassifying diesel exhaust as carcinogenic puts it into the same category as other known hazards such as asbestos, alcohol and ultraviolet radiation.

The U.S. government, however, still classifies diesel exhaust as a likely carcinogen. Experts said new diesel engines spew out fewer fumes but further studies are needed to assess any potential dangers.

“We don’t have enough evidence to say these new engines are zero risk, but they are certainly lower risk than before,” said Vincent Cogliano of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He added that the agency had not received any requests to reevaluate whether diesel definitely causes cancer but said their assessments tend to be in line with those made by IARC.

Read complete article here.

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