By Plymovent Staff
Around the world, researchers are tightening diesel exhaust occupational exposure limits (OELs), based on scientific evidence linking exhaust to certain cancers.
In October 2018, The Council of the European Union adopted a proposal to set the occupational exposure limit of diesel exhaust emissions at 0.05 mg/m³—calculated on the basis of elemental carbon. This OEL will be transitioned over the next two years.
The reason for these stricter limits? Research. One study suggests that 3.6 million workers in the EU are at risk of exposures, and researcher believe the new limit will prevent at least 6,000 deaths per year from lung cancer. However, the EU’s own scientific advisory panel, SCOEL, said in a paper in 2017 that this new limit may not prevent all illnesses: “although toxicological data supports a threshold (possibly….corresponding 0.015 mg EC/m³), epidemiological data suggests significant cancer risks already at and below these exposure levels.” (Source: SCOEL/OPIN/403 diesel engine exhaust, 2017-01-17)
Research Links Diesel Exhaust to Cancer
Globally, recent studies have linked diesel exhaust to certain types of cancer. In one UK study, 21 percent of lung cancers among men and five percent among women in the UK were linked to workplace exposure. In Canada, a 2016 CAREX study suggests that 781,000 workers in Canada are exposed to diesel engine exhaust (Source: Environmental Health 2016 15:4). Finland’s Occupational Health institute recommended an elemental carbon OEL of 20 µg/m3 for the mining industry and 5 µg/m3 for other workplaces.
Given that today’s “clean diesel” trucks do produce less soot, researchers are recommending a change in how diesel exhaust exposure gets measured. Traditionally, tests measure the amount of elemental carbon or total carbon in the air, but some are suggesting a shift to measure ultrafine particles. Ultrafine particulate matter (PM0.1) is very harmful, but only travel short distances from where they are emitted, making them especially harmful to firefighters and others who work indoors while engines are running (Source: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, Volume 13, 2016 – Issue 7).
Recommended Control Methods
Several countries recommend a number of control measures to minimize the risk of diesel exhaust inhalation. For example, Canada recommends these engineering controls to eliminate or reduce exposure to diesel exhaust:
- Engine exhaust filters
- Local tailpipe exhaust ventilation
- Dilution ventilation
Plymovent has helped thousands of Fire/EMS departments install a local tailpipe exhaust ventilation system in their stations and garages. Visit Plymovent at https://www.plymovent.com/us/vehicle-exhaust-extraction/segments/fire-and-emergency-service-stations for more information.