Workers exposed to harsh levels of diesel exhaust: Report

A new study released by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour found the province’s construction workers have been exposed to unsafe levels of a known lung carcinogen from diesel engine exhaust (DEE). Photo courtesy Big Stock

A new study released by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour found the province’s construction workers have been exposed to unsafe levels of a known lung carcinogen from diesel engine exhaust (DEE).

The study, which was funded by the province’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, estimates nearly 30,000 Ontario construction workers have been exposed to unsafe levels of DEE at jobsites.

In looking at 149 elemental carbon (EC), a surrogate of DEE exposure, samples, the researchers found approximately 90.6 per cent exceeded the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) recommendation (5 µg m-3 respirable EC).

Approximately 41.6 per cent exceeded the Dutch Expert Committee on Occupational Safety (DECOS) limit (1.03 µg m-3 respirable EC). Underground workers (13.20 µg m-3 on average) had exposures approximately four times higher than below grade workers (3.56 µg m-3 on average) and nine times higher than above ground workers (1.49 µg m-3 on average).

Meanwhile, training facility exposures were similar to above ground workers (1.86 µg m-3 on average), but exposures were highly variable.

CAREX Canada estimates that almost 30,000 Ontario construction workers are exposed to diesel engine exhaust at work, noted OCRC. Exposure can occur when working with or around diesel-powered equipment.

The researchers in the study hoped that their work could help inform the selection of appropriate control measures as well as the development of occupational exposure levels or other policies to reduce exposure.

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