Diesel engine exhaust is a complex mixture of toxic gases and particulates produced from the combustion of diesel fuel. It is classified as a Group 1 definite human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer [IARC, 2014]. Exposure to diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer, and there is limited evidence that it may cause bladder cancer. Diesel engines are widely used in construction for many different applications. According to CAREX Canada, an estimated 94,000 Canadian workers are exposed to diesel engine exhaust at work [CAREX Canada, 2014].
The infographic below showcases the control strategies available for reducing exposure to diesel particulate matter in construction. It incorporates the Hierarchy of Controls, where control strategies are ranked from most effective (elimination or substitution) to least effective (personal protective equipment). The diagram also distinguishes between proactive controls (which eliminate or reduce diesel emissions before they enter workplace air) and reactive controls (which reduce the concentration of diesel emissions already present in workplace air, or reduce the likelihood that workers will inhale the emissions). Proactive controls are generally considered more effective than reactive controls. An effective emissions control program utilizes multiple controls from across the Hierarchy, and includes a monitoring program to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.
IARC (2014). IARC Monographs on the Carcinogenic Risks to Humans Volume 105: Diesel and Gasoline Engine Exhausts and Some Nitroarenes. International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France.
CAREX Canada. Data outputs from eWORK tool [version 0.0.04, 2014]. Available from www.carexcanada.ca.
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IARC updated its classification process, which evaluates potential carcinogens based on the likelihood that they can cause cancer, in 2019.