If there were ever a reason for automakers like Audi
to get their "clean diesel" technology – or something even cleaner, i.e., zero-emission vehicles – on the road, this is it. Researchers at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands say up to six percent of lung-cancer deaths
in the US and UK could be caused by diesel exhaust. The researchers published a study in the Environmental Health Perspectives
that found that people with occupational exposure to extensive diesel exhaust accounted for 4.8 percent of US and UK lung-cancer deaths, while 1.3 percent of the deaths were of people who lived near highways.
The study involved testing UK and US truckers and miners who were exposed to emissions from diesel engines produced between the 1970s and 1990s. Researchers said it was "unclear" if the results are applicable to more modern diesel engines but added that the findings were consistent with earlier studies, since this isn't the first time there has been an official link between diesel exhaust and cancer
. The new Utrecht study also said that lifetime exposure to diesel exhaust causes as many as 689 extra lung cancer deaths for every 10,000 workers exposed, an additional 6.9 percent risk. Federal workplace standards state that any scenario where the death-risk rises 0.1 percent is considered notable.
The good news is that the study (read a synopsis below
) says the number of "uncontrolled" older diesel engines in the US, Europe and Japan has dropped "substantially" in recent years. The problem is that as some engines get cleaner, other problems arise. Independent researchers at TUeV Nord in Germany recently found
the advanced gasoline engines can emit 10 times more particulates and harmful carcinogens than today's new diesel engines. The new GDI engines are even worse than earlier gas engines, spewing up to 1,000 times the harmful emissions because of the higher-pressure cylinders. Given the strict emissions regulations in Europe
and around the world, we expect GDI engines will soon get the same kind of regulatory scrutiny that diesel mills have had up until now.