Death and the diesel engine

There are days when it seems every other vehicle on the road is a semi-trailer truck. The economy is picking up and things are on the move.

Trucking firms are having a difficult time hiring enough truckers, even though it’s steady work. It also could shorten your lifespan, the World Health Organization said today. So can any job, around diesel fuel.

The WHO today added diesel exhaust as a definite cause of cancer. Diesel exhausts are now in the same group as carcinogens ranging from wood chippings to plutonium and sunlight to alcohol, the BBC reports.


It is thought people working in at-risk industries have about a 40% increased risk of developing lung cancer.

Dr Christopher Portier, who led the assessment, said: “The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group’s conclusion was unanimous, diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans.

“Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide.”

The impact on the wider population, which is exposed to diesel fumes at much lower levels and for shorter periods of time, is also unknown.

If you’ve ever been behind a belching truck and started gasping for air, you can made an educated guess, however.

In 1989, the International Agency for Research on Cancer said diesel exhaust was “probably” a human carcinogen.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Too bad diesel engines don’t run on peanut oil, as was originally planned.

    (Then those of us driving behind a big rig would only have to worry about getting the jelly stains off our car.)

  • Kassie

    Diesel engines can easily be converted to run on peanut oil. Robert Fitzgerald converted one to run on used vegetable oil for his 2006 Senate campaign vehicle here in Minnesota.

  • Bob Collins

    Off topic, but I wonder where Robert Fitzgerald is now. He was a really nice guy.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Actually, all the diesel sold in MN is a 5% biodiesel blend now (locally grown soy, not peanut).

    It will be 20% by 2015, if we stay on track.

    Also, new diesel engines have anti-pollution devices the old semis didn’t have. They are much cleaner now.

  • Mark Gisleson

    I guess that’s why trucking jobs pay less than ever before now, and why many independent truckers go broke every year thanks to fixed price hauling contracts and wildly fluctuating diesel prices.

    The only thing our Wall Street masters have accomplished is to make sure that the jobs with the greatest health hazards and worst working conditions are also some of the poorest paying jobs out there.

    For the big bucks, you have to plant your butt behind a desk and breathe climate-controlled air all day but it’s OK because for that you can earn a bonus.

  • Robert Fitzgerald

    Still a nice guy. :)

    Recently completed a year abroad in The Netherlands where I finished my third year of law school. Loved it. Back in Kansas, where I attended my first two years of law school, studying for the bar exam. Assuming I pass, I will be spending the next two years as a research attorney for a Kansas Supreme Court justice.

  • Kassie

    I’m thinking Robert has notifications set up for when his named is mentioned. Or he’s following me around the internet knowing that I know all the cool places to hang out…

  • Mark Gisleson

    Kassie, that or I still have his email address on file and sent him the link to let him know he’d just gotten a compliment.