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HEI to launch new diesel epidemiology project

The Health Effects Institute (HEI) is launching an effort to revisit and update its 1999 study “Diesel Emissions and Lung Cancer: Epidemiology and Quantitative Risk Assessment”, which examined the strengths and limitations of the epidemiologic studies then available and considered whether such data could be used for quantitative risk assessment (QRA).

For this purpose, HEI plans to form a panel of scientists who have expertise in epidemiology and occupational health, biostatistics, emissions, and exposure assessment. The panel will be charged with the following:

  • Review the findings of the 1999 HEI Special Report, Diesel Emissions and Lung Cancer: Epidemiology and Quantitative Risk Assessment.

  • Review the epidemiologic studies, their data, and their exposure estimates that have recently become available and that may form the basis of QRA for diesel exhaust, and analyze such data as needed.

  • Explore whether the data from these new studies enable analyses to extend exposure–response relationships to lower exposure levels, similar to those encountered in everyday, nonoccupational environments.

  • Identify gaps in the available data and sources of uncertainty.

  • Make recommendations about the usefulness of extending or conducting further analyses of existing data sets.

  • If necessary, make recommendations for the design of new studies that would provide a stronger basis for risk assessment.

HEI expects to hold a workshop (including investigators from the original epidemiology studies and other experts) in the first half of 2013, panel deliberations throughout 2013, and final analyses and a report in 2014.

Background. Epidemiologic studies conducted over the past 40 years provided information on the hazards associated with exposure to diesel exhaust, including the risk of lung cancer. However, there has been uncertainty about the use of such data to estimate the magnitude of lung cancer risk in humans, largely because of concerns about the reliability of exposure estimates.

Recently, results of several new studies examining the association between exposure to diesel emissions and lung cancer have been published. These include cohort studies of miners who worked in non-metal mines in the United States and studies of US trucking industry employees.

These studies made strong efforts to estimate exposures more precisely than was possible in the past. After reviewing these studies, along with other epidemiologic and toxicologic evidence, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently concluded a new hazard assessment and designated diesel exhaust as a known human carcinogen (Class 1). (Earlier post.)

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