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We handle cases across the United States. Allen Stewart is licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Arizona.

Driving Towards Cancer: Diesel Exhaust and Lung Cancer

Those trucks you see on the highway carry commerce across our country. The men and women driving these rigs work hard. What they and you probably don’t know is that the diesel exhaust they breath daily also seriously increases the trucking industry workers’ chance of getting lung cancer.

In 2008, cancer researchers at Harvard and UC Berkeley published a study entitled, “Lung cancer and Vehicle Exhaust in Trucking Industry Workers.”[1] The study followed 31,135 male workers employed in the unionized U.S. trucking industry in 1985. The study counted how many of these workers died from lung cancer over the next 15 years. The study adjusted for smoking history (to make sure that it wasn’t just smoking cigarettes that was causing the amount of lung cancers seen) and it adjusted for the healthy worker effect.[2]

The results from this study show that the longer someone works in the trucking industry the greater their chance of getting lung cancer and that cigarette smoking did not explain away this fact. The study’s conclusion says: “Trucking industry workers who have had regular exposure to vehicle exhaust from diesel and other types of vehicles on highways, city streets, and loading docks have an elevated risk of lung cancer with increasing years of work.”

Thus study does not stand alone in its conclusion. Again, quoting the study: “Approximately 40 epidemiologic studies have described an association between lung cancer risk and occupations with some degree of diesel exhaust exposure, including railroad workers, construction workers, port workers, and truck and other professional drivers.” This should not surprise anyone who knows what is in diesel exhaust—a toxic complex mixture of particulate matter (PM) gases and small particles “with mutagenic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) carcinogenic compounds….”[3]

Not surprisingly, some published papers seek to sow seeds of doubt about the relationship between diesel exhaust and cancer. But when looking at these papers, the first thing that stands out is the direct relationship between the authors and the diesel engine industry.[4] And just like the tobacco companies, this industry will probably say anything to divert attention away from the proven hazards of its products.

And because the air the trucking industry breathes always becomes the air we breathe, we should demand this industry develop cleaner exhausts to protect trucking industry workers and the general public.


[1] Environ Health Perspect. 2008 October; 116(10): 1327–1332.

[2] If you don’t follow the study of occupational cancer closely you may not know that people working have less cancer than the general population. It makes sense when you think about it. If you have cancer, the chances go way up that your cancer prevents you from working.

[3] Environ Health Perspect. 2008 October; 116(10): 1327–1332.

[4] Inhal Toxicol. 2004 Dec 15;16(14):889-900; Crit Rev Toxicol. 2006 Oct;36(9):727-76. (Both articles are written by International Truck employees);

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