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After Legal Fight, NCI Researchers Publish Study Linking Diesel Exhaust, Cancer 196

ananyo writes "A landmark study involving U.S. miners that links cancer rates to diesel fume exposure has been published after a seventeen-year legal battle with an industry group. A February 27 Slashdot story had reported that lawyers for the mining industry had sent threatening letters to scientific journals advising them against publishing the study. Initiated in 1998, after the first of many legal delays, the study analyzed exposures in detail for more than 12,000 workers while controlling for smoking and other risk factors. In the end, the scientists found that miners faced a threefold risk of lethal lung cancer, and underground workers who were heavily exposed to diesel fumes faced a fivefold risk. The two concluding papers from the study are available in full."
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After Legal Fight, NCI Researchers Publish Study Linking Diesel Exhaust, Cancer

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  • "Heavily exposed" (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @10:10AM (#39260429)
    In fact, most developed countries outside the US, and some states inside, have strict rules on Diesel exhausts. Possibly over-strict given the relative lack of control of gasoline emissions from hot gas-powered trucks.But these people were being heavily exposed. When I worked in Diesel R&D, the engine test cells were carefully extracted and exposure to exhaust was very restricted. And for years many heavy vehicle workshops have tubing to remove exhaust fumes safely. The engine room ventilation systems on motor ships ensure that not only exhaust, but also under-piston and oil fumes, never go near engineering staff.

    You could say that perhaps the industries with perhaps the greatest in-depth knowledge of these engines have taken the greatest precautions against long term exposure of staff.

  • Re:Emissions (Score:5, Informative)

    by Skater ( 41976 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @10:22AM (#39260549) Homepage Journal

    I always wondered why many states require passenger cars to pass through strict emissions tests, however it is perfectly OK to have trains, dump trucks, buses, and large vehicles spew columns of dark black diesel exhaust into the sky.... As the short answer to that, well-maintained big diesel engines have a useful lifetime measured in millions of miles. Decades of use. Believe it or not, (most) emissions rules do apply to those vile soot-belchers (at least, the non-road ones); It will just take literally 50 years to cycle through the worst-of-the-worst currently in service.

    Yes, and the standards are getting more stringent. I think the most strict rules go into effect in 2015, and at that point the railroad engines will require DEF to meet the emissions standards, unless someone comes up with something amazing between now and then.

    Your other point is right on target, too - old locomotives are often rebuilt and reused, which is probably better for the environment than building a new one would be, even if the new one is more fuel efficient or runs cleaner. There are locomotives in service from manufacturers that have been out of business for 40 years.

  • Re:First Amendment (Score:4, Informative)

    by avgjoe62 ( 558860 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @10:29AM (#39260613)

    First of all, freedom of speech only means that the government cannot impede your right to express constitutionally protected speech. Freedom of speech does not mean that someone has to give you space on their pulpit to make your speech. So, Facebook can ban you from their site, Yahoo can moderate your comments and the local newspaper can choose not to publish your letter to the editor. You are still free to stand on a street corner and speak out about what you believe to be important.

    Similarly, scientific journals do not HAVE to publish your paper. They are not obligated to. And when they have lawyers sending letters, threatening to tie up time and resources for years in a legal battle if the journal does publish your paper,you can bet that the journals will look long and hard at the costs to themselves for publishing your paper. It is not an issue of free speech - the government is not involved at all here. It is just a matter of intimidation. The industry lawyers are essentially school yard bullies, threatening to beat you up if you tell the teacher about what they've been doing. That those same lawyers know they will ultimately lose the case does not matter - they just want to threaten enough to make sure the paper never sees the light of day in a big, respectable public venue.

    Is this right? Is it ethical? I'd think not. But, is this legal? Unfortunately, yes. And whatever else it may be, it is not a matter of free speech. It's much more petty and venal than that.

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @10:33AM (#39260665)

    US standards are tighter than Euro standards.

    "p.s. Since diesel engines are built (and have to be built) tougher (to withstand higher pressures), they last longer. Which in itself is a great savings for the environment. The throwaway society (get a new car before you're done with the "old" one's payments) is not something I'm really into."

    Modern petrol engines are very long-lived, and can be made to the SAME longevity specs as a diesel. Witness the VW two valve engines which were designed with the SAME engine block and bottom end and and engine block capable of fitting diesel, carbed induction, and fuel injection components!

    Modern diesels are hideously expensive to repair in most cases (not VW). Modern pollution controls make them even more expensive to repair.

  • cars emit only 10% (Score:4, Informative)

    by 1800maxim ( 702377 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @12:15PM (#39261847)
    I wish I bookmarked/copied/saved an article I came across a few years ago. It was a study/research paper that split emissions as follows:

    personal automobiles - 10% diesel transport trucks, diesel trains - 90%

    Not talking about CO2 emissions, but about other harmful gases. I applaud that we don't have smelly car exhausts, but not looking to regulate diesel trucks/trains is just like putting a band aid on a gushing wound.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.