NETHERLANDS: Tracing diesel compounds in the body could improve knowledge of health risks

Toxicologists at Nijmegen University have found substances related to diesel exhaust in the bodies of test subjects. The discovery may pave the way for a testing system that would measure individual exposure levels.

Exposure to diesel soot compounds is thought to contribute to the development of lung cancer, but thus far the only way of estimating an individual’s risk has been to track cancer rates in specific occupational groups, like lorry drivers.

Now, researchers at Nijmegen University have found a degradation product of diesel exhaust in the urine and blood of office staff, unloaders and drivers at an indoor transport company. According to the study, the subjects were “exposed to almost the same extent as a result of ineffective ventilation of an office building”.

The toxicologists hope that their success in isolating the diesel exhaust compound – a degradation of 1-nitropyrene – in staff blood and urine will lead to applications for workplace testing.

The results of the study “show how unreliable risk assessments based on occupational group can be,” say the authors. “To improve health conditions at work, it is necessary in many cases to test individual employees.”

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