Parent’s diesel exposure increases likelihood of childhood brain tumours

Children whose fathers work around diesel powered machinery are more likely to develop cancer, a WA study has found.

Results from the WA Institute for Medical Research (WAMIR) and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research study showed that children with fathers exposed to diesel exhaust fumes around the time of conception were 62 per cent more likely to have brain tumours, the West reported.

The research published in the International Journal of Cancer, also found that women exposed to diesel fumes during pregnancy doubled the risk of a brain tumour forming in their child.

However, Doctor Susan Peters from WAIMR said the findings regarding the father’s exposure are likely to be more significant as men were more likely to work in industries where diesel fumes are present.

Researchers said that although today’s diesel technology has improved remarkably with lower emissions compared to that of 20 years ago, exposure to diesel fumes around ships and machinery in the mining and construction industries remains relatively uncontrolled and in many cases unmonitored.

The study included 306 children with brain tumours from 10 children’s hospitals across the country, Peters said.

Peters added that childhood brain tumours were the leading cause of child cancer death and most develop before the age of five.

"We know that malignant brain tumours are the leading cause of cancer mortality in children but despite decades of research, the risk factors are largely unknown," Peters said.

"This work on the occupational hazards faced by parents of children with brain tumours also looked at other factors which may be involved in children developing tumours."

This research began after the International Agency for Research on Cancer listed diesel as a carcinogen and will now be extended to look at other workplace chemicals like pesticides and solvents.

Just last week Australian Mining reported that young Western Australian miners faced an increased cancer risk at work as a direct result of exposure to the sun, diesel fumes and tobacco smoke.

Research conducted by the WA Cancer Council revealed that 45 per cent of WA employees are exposed to at least one cancer causing substance in their place of work, a figure that is 5 per cent above the national average.

Australian Mining has reported the risks of diesel fumes after the World Health Organization said diesel fumes cause cancer.

The organisation’s ruling said that diesel exhaust is as dangerous a public threat as second hand smoke.

While the risk of cancer is fairly small a science panel said raising the status of diesel fumes to carcinogen from a 'probable carcinogen' was an important move, one that may have major repercussions throughout the mining industry, where workers are constantly exposed to high levels of diesel fumes, particularly underground miners.

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