Friday, 13 July 2012

Diesel fumes reclassified as carcinogen

The World Health Organsiation (WHO) has reclassified diesel fumes as a Categerory 1 carcinogen, similar to tobacco.  The primary risk is that of lung cancer, but there may be a link to bladder cancer. This has resulted in a spate of enquiries about measuring diesel fumes.
Diesel exhaust fumes are a complex mixture of particulate and gaseous pollutants. The highly respirable particles consist mainly of a carbonaceous core and adsorbed organic compounds. The most important adsorbed organics are n-alkanes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Oxides of nitrogen in the exhaust gas may react with PAHs to form highly carcinogenic nitro-PAHs.

Because diesel fumes are complex, it is not straightforward to measure fumes. The current best practice is to measure elemental carbon.  This can be done using cassettes and a sampling pump with subsequent laboratory analysis.

However, there is nothing with which to compare any results.  There is no WEL or any other figure. So we can get a set of results and not know if they are good or bad.

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