Updated: Jun 4, 2020
Day 2- on the lead up to world cancer day. These blogs are created to build an awareness around exposures to carcinogenic substances from an occupational hygiene | industrial hygiene perspective.
Today, we are discussing Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions (DEEEs). This substance is made up of a mixture of substances which appear in a gaseous and particulate state. Some parts of the mixtures are carcinogens. We will be discussing this further throughout this blog.
What are Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions (DEEEs)?
Diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEEs) are exhausted from a motorised combustible engine which is fuelled by diesel. These kinds of emissions have prompted a worldwide effort to reduce greenhouse gasses and carbon footprints due to their polluting effects on the planet.
Outlining the Effects of the Substances Hazardous to Health
Organisations across the world are now implementing Environmental Policies which meet international standards - promoting the use or alternative energy, such as electric cars and more carbon efficient logistical strategies. Today however we will be looking at Diesel engine exhaust emissions from a workplace exposure perspective.
So, What Do The Experts Say?
Professor David Phillips, a Cancer Research UK-funded carcinogen expert from King’s College of London, explains in detail what types of substances are likely to be present in Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions (DEEEs). In the following science blog published through Cancer Research UK, Professor David Phillips explains that:
“When diesel burns inside an engine it releases two potentially cancer-causing things: microscopic soot particles, and chemicals called ‘polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons’, or PAHs.
According to Professor David Phillips, there are three possible ways these can cause cancer:
“Firstly, inhaled PAHs could directly damage the DNA in the cells of our lungs – leading to cancer."
“Secondly, the soot particles can get lodged deep inside the lungs, causing long-term inflammation, and thirdly this can increase the rate at which cells divide. So if any nearby lung cells pick up random mutations, this inflammation could, theoretically, make them more likely to grow and spread."
He goes on to discuss:
“Diesel exhaust may be carcinogenic by a combination of these effects – we know the particles are coated with the PAHs, delivering them deep into the lungs where they get stuck and, potentially, cause damage. I should stress, though, that we don’t know for certain which of these mechanisms is most important in practice.”
How Are We Exposed and What Are The Risks?
Exposure to Diesel engine exhaust emissions are more prevalent in industries where diesel fuelled vehicles and plant are operated. For example:
Power generators and plant rooms powered by Diesel engines and motors
Fork lift trucks and REACH trucks operational in warehouses and buildings.
Vehicle and automotive repair centres or auctions.
Mining and Construction
Exposures to Diesel Exhaust Emissions occur usually through inhalation. The gasses and particulate enter the body through the respiratory system. Mixed particulate and gaseous chemicals are released into the atmosphere and then inhaled by people working in the areas.
Chemical and Simple Asphyxiants
DEEEs have the ability to build up in an enclosed area with insufficient ventilation. A mixture of Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide can deplete oxygen levels and cause both chemical and simple asphyxiation.
Further risks of exposure to specific aldehydes are also likely. Some aldehydes pose a further risk with regards to cancer.
As mentioned in our Day 1: Introduction to Woodworking article (https://www.workplacescientifics.com/post/day-1-world-cancer-day-introducing-wood-processing), Formaldehyde has been categorised as a group 1 carcinogen by the Internatuonal Agency for Research On Cancer (IARC). Why is this relevant? Well, the substance has been known to be present in Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions (DEEEs)
Volatile Organic Compounds (Benzene)
Amongst other genotoxicants, Benzene is also present in the complex mixture of combustable gasses. According to the International Agency for research on cancer, benzene has been closely linked to specific cancers such as leukaemia (predominantly myelogenous leukaemia).
In IARC Monographs Supplement 7 (IARC, 1987), Benzene was classified as a Group-1 carcinogen, citing additional evidence of an increased incidence of acute nonlymphocytic leukaemia (ANLL) in workers exposed to Benzene.
Further Health Risks
According to the American Cancer Society, "Lung cancer is the major cancer thought to be linked to diesel exhaust. Several studies of workers exposed to diesel exhaust have shown small but significant increases in risk of lung cancer." They go on to discuss that "Men with the heaviest and most prolonged exposures, such as railroad workers, heavy equipment operators, miners, and truck drivers, have been found to have higher lung cancer death rates than unexposed workers. Based on the number of people exposed at work, diesel exhaust may pose a substantial health risk."
Further Substances have been listed in the HSE document INDG286, which has been provided below.
There is some evidence that exposure to Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions can cause cancer in the bladder according to the National Health Service (NHS).
Controlling Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions
Exposure control is key in ensuring the health and safety of the workforce. This can be achieved by implementing specific controls, relating to the hierarchy of control.
As part of our drive to help provide useful and insightful information around controlling substances hazardous to health, we have provided some tips on how to reduce exposures to Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions.
Stop using diesel-powered plant and machinery
Switch generators, motors and vehicles with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Where Diesel engines have to be used, install LEV systems which connect to the exhausts. Where possible, switch off engines when vehicles are stationary and minimise use.
Use vehicles in well-ventilated areas only.
Install general ventilation systems to help clear the air. Promote airflow by opening doors and windows and roof hatches.
For help managing your COSHH requirements, please don't hesitate to contact us today for free advice.
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