Epidemiological synopsis of diesel exhaust emissions and lung cancer

Project No. BIA 0063


completed 12/2001


Many publications exist dealing with a possible association between diesel exhaust emissions and lung cancer. To date, no clear scientific evidence exists for a dose-response relationship; the subject is therefore still under discussion. Epidemiological studies into the subject have yielded different results. Epidemiological results and proposed values for a dose-response relationship have been collected in this project. The objective was to provide an overview of occupational epidemiological results and the range of possible dose-response relationships, in order to support the scientific discussion.


Extensive literature searches were performed for publications dealing with diesel exhaust emissions and lung cancer. Epidemiological studies were classified and the relative risks presented graphically. Data on diesel emissions exposure were collected and grouped into industry-specific exposure estimates. Dose-response relationships published to date were reviewed.


Despite the existence of many publications concerning diesel exhaust emissions and lung cancer, many aspects of this complex topic remain unclear. A positive association between diesel exhaust emissions and lung cancer is suspected. This assumption cannot however be confirmed, even by the synthesis of 51 epidemiological studies produced by this project. Since the risks detected are often close to 1 or slightly above 1, evidence of a relationship exists but remains unclear. The arguments of the German Research Society (DFG) evaluation for diesel exhaust emissions from 1987, that insufficient data exist for an acceptable quantitative risk estimate for humans, appear to be confirmed. This argument must be examined by a detailed analysis of the data presented.

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Financed by:
  • Hauptverband der gewerblichen Berufsgenossenschaften (HVBG)
Research institution(s):
  • Berufsgenossenschaftliches Institut für Arbeitsschutz - BIA

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

Arbeitsbedingte Gesundheitsgefahren, Gefahrstoffe


Epidemiologie, Exposition, Krebserregende Stoffe

Description, key words:

diesel exhaust emissions, lung cancer, dose-response relationship, review, diesel, exposure, epidemiology