Last month the World Health Organizations’ Cancer Agency issued a ruling changing the classification of the relationship between diesel fumes and cancer, declaring that diesel fumes cause cancer.  This is a change for the World Health Organization as it previously classified diesel fumes as a  “probable cause of cancer”.  Now, this decision, puts diesel fumes in the same risk category as asbestos, arsenic, mustard gas, alcohol and tobacco according to the World Health Organization.

This decision by the World Health Organization was based in part upon a study performed by the United States National Cancer Institute which is part of the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as part of the Centers for Disease Control.  The study, published March 2, 2012, followed 12,318 workers at eight (8) non-metal mining facilities.  In these mining facilities, heavy equipment frequently runs on diesel fuels, and these mines represent a closed environment where the level of diesel exhaust builds.  This study found that non-smoking minors, who are heavily exposed to diesel fumes for years, are at seven (7) times the normal lung cancer risk of non-smokers.  Diesel fumes have also been linked to bladder cancer.

Three separate federal agencies already classified diesel exhaust either as “a likely carcinogen”, “a potential occupational carcinogen” or “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”.

Since so many people are exposed to diesel exhaust, there could be many cases of lung cancer connected to these fumes.  Those most likely effected include bus drivers, mechanics, and anyone handling or operating heavy machinery.  Naturally cigarette smoking magnifies these risks.

In New Jersey, a worker exposed to diesel fumes who develops lung cancer has the right to file a claim in the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation.  This is a special court set up to hear occupational diseases claims.  Compensation may come in the form of medical treatment, payment for lost wages as well as compensation for permanent disability.  In the event of death, the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation will award benefits to the dependents of a decedent who dies of an occupational disease.

The law firm of Stark & Stark represents numerous workers exposed to diesel fumes who have developed cancer.

Arthur Kravitz is a Shareholder in Stark & Stark’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office, specializing in Workers’ Compensation Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Kravitz.