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Diesel Exhaust Exposure Linked to Pulmonary Disease

Increased risk of death related to toxic stew of pollutants at work

MONDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to diesel exhaust at work can raise the risk of death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to study findings published online Nov. 27 in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

In a retrospective cohort study, using Cox proportional hazards models, Jaime E. Hart, of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues examined data from 30,671 male U.S. railroad workers (aged 40 to 64 in 1959 with 10 to 20 years of prior railroad work) for the association between COPD death and work in diesel-exposed jobs.

The investigators found that working at diesel-exposed railroad jobs was associated with an increased risk of COPD mortality compared to work in unexposed jobs. In fact, there was a 2.5 percent (2.1 percent adjusting for smoking history) increase for each extra year of exposure, for those who started their career with diesel locomotives.

"Our results are consistent with the literature relating occupational exposures to dusts and fumes to the development of COPD, and ambient air pollution studies where exposure to particulate matter is associated with both hospitalizations and COPD mortality," the authors write. "Air toxics and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds found in diesel exhaust may be important in the induction of such airway inflammatory changes and possibly oxidative stress in the lung. These studies, along with the evidence from occupational and environmental epidemiological studies, support the hypothesis that occupational exposure to diesel exhaust can contribute to the occurrence of COPD and COPD mortality."

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