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Short-Haul Truckers At Greater Risk For Lung Cancer

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 12:18 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: On The Road, Protecting Your Family, Trucking Industry, Lung Cancer, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Diesel Exhaust


IMAGE SOURCE:© Wikimedia Commons / diesel smoke / author: Photohound

A new national study by researchers at UC Berkeley and Harvard suggests trucking company workers continuously exposed to diesel exhaust from vehicles on the highway, loading docks and city streets have an elevated risk of developing lung cancer compared to other workers.

Based on more than 30,000 worker records, the study found that short-haul drivers, who do deliveries and pickups, including loading/unloading of containers at ports and work at freight-delivery companies, had the highest rate of disease and deaths. Also at higher risk were dockworkers.

This week, California’s Air Resources Board will convene to consider the findings and vote on a landmark regulation to reduce risk to the general public from more than one million diesel trucks traveling state highways.

If adopted, California would be the first state to require new smog-free 2010 engines or carriers to retrofit pre-2007 model trucks with soot filters. The rule would extend to any trucks hauling within the state, even those vehicles registered in other states. The phase-out would start in 2010.

In 1990, California listed diesel exhaust as a known carcinogen. It also considers more than 40 chemicals within diesel to be toxic air contaminants.

“The study findings confirm that truck drivers exposed to diesel have higher rates of lung cancer,” said Dr. John Balmes, MD, a member of the state air board and a professor at UCSF and UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

Researchers believe long-haul drivers were at lower risk because they are protected by keeping their windows closes. Short-haul drivers often drive with their windows down and are thereby exposed to exhaust fumes.

Diesel exhaust has been linked to higher rates of lung cancer over the last decade in workers of construction, railroad, bridge and tunnel and trucking – all who inhale the toxic fumes of more than 400 chemicals including arsenic, cyanide, lead, benzene and formaldehyde.

While the current study focused on eight trucking industry jobs, a 2007 study by the same researchers compared all trucking industry jobs to the general population and also concluded that lung cancer rates were higher within the trucking industry, Balmes said.

This is one of several studies published in the last decade that links trucking and cancer risk.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2002, released a controversial study that found diesel exhaust caused lung cancer. EPA officials said, data obtained from numerous animal tests and occupational studies indicate a clear link between long-term exposure to the hazardous substance and lung cancer.

The EPA report's conclusions were similar to those found during recent studies conducted by numerous health organizations. When inhaled, diesel exhaust from large trucks, farm equipment and construction devices may also exacerbate allergies, impact the lungs' ability to function and worsen asthma. #

1 Comment

Posted by Brandon Borgna
Friday, December 12, 2008 3:17 PM EST

This piece inaccurately portrays the current state of the trucking industry and fails to mention that the study being referenced is historical, focusing on data from as long ago as 1985. Engine makers and trucking companies worked together to meet new EPA engine emission and fuel standards for 1984, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2010 trucks, drastically reducing emissions, and few of the older trucks are still on the road. In 2002, new trucks incorporated exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and other emission-control technologies to reduce tailpipe emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by almost half.

In 2007, diesel trucks incorporated diesel particulate filters to reduce tailpipe emissions of particulate matter by 90 percent. These trucks also began the first half of what will be a 90 percent reduction in NOx emissions. Today, on-road diesel engines contribute just 1 percent of the nation's total emissions of volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide and less than 1.5 percent of the nation's total emissions of fine particulate matter.

Fine particulate emissions from on-road diesel engines have been cut by more than half over the past decade. On-road heavy-duty diesel trucks produce half as much fine particulates as off-road sources, including bulldozers, tractors, railroad locomotives and ships. Also, it is also important to note that motor carriers voluntarily supplied driver records to these researchers in hopes of finding ways to improve conditions for their highly valued drivers.

Glen Kedzie
Vice President & Environmental Affairs Counsel
American Trucking Associations

Comments for this article are closed.

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