If you are in a metropolitan area and stare into the sky, you will see that the air has a haze-like quality to it. This is likely because the air is tainted with fumes emitted by factories and the thousands of vehicles on the highway.
For the most part, city dwellers are so use to it that it no longer affects them. For them, a smoggy sky is the norm. While it has long been known that diesel fumes pose a health risk, it was never considered a serious threat. However, the World Health Organization is now reconsidering and has plans to upgrade the threat level, which would put diesel fumes on the same level as secondhand smoke.
The odds of developing cancer from exposure to exhaust fumes is minimal, but because so many residents of large cities breathe it in in some form or another, the panel is in talks to elevate the risk status from “probable carcinogen” to “carcinogen.” This would put diesel exhaust in the same classification as passive smoking.
Anyone who lives in an urban area is at a high risk of daily exposure. This includes pedestrians, crew members who work on ships and ports, big rig drivers and heavy machinery operators.
The health panel consisted of members of the International Agency for Research on Cancer and was held in Lyons, France. The potential danger of diesel exhaust has not been considered since 1989 and was then labeled as a probable carcinogen. With the reclassification, it now holds the same status as other hazards, such as ultraviolet radiation and asbestos.
The U.S. government, in the meantime, still lists diesel exhaust as only a likely carcinogen. Officials said this was due to newer vehicle models that emit less fumes. While the overall risk factor has gone down due to more eco-friendly technology, there is still enough for health and environment experts to remain concerned.