Harvard study: Truckers face elevated health risks
U.S. truck drivers face a nearly 50 percent greater chance of developing heart disease, with the most likely cause being diesel exhaust, according to a newly released Harvard Medical School study.
Harvard officials claim the study is the largest and most comprehensive study yet of professional truck driver health, examining the jobs and medical histories of more than 54,000 male union drivers across the nation.
Researchers found the drivers, all members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, had a lower than normal incident of death compared to the general population, but that 49 percent of the drivers faced heart disease and a lung cancer rate 10 percent higher than the general public. Researchers also found that 32 percent of dockworkers face similar heart issues.
The study identified diesel exhaust soot and other breathable exhaust particles as the likely culprits for the elevated cases of heart disease and lung cancer. Researchers did note that truck drivers are by and large, heavier smokers than the general population, but that these higher levels of smoking could not alone account for the increases. The Harvard team also did not look at other common contributory factors to cancer and heart disease such as diet or lifestyle. Some medical studies have questioned the link between diesel exhaust and lung cancer.
Published in the August edition of the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the Harvard study confirms past findings of smaller more focused studies, such as the elevated levels of heart disease of workers exposed to diesel or automotive fumes.
The Harvard study also comes as many of the major sources of diesel exhaust creation, such as the West Coast ports, are conducting studies to discover their true impact on workers and surrounding cities. For the most part the studies have held out good news for drivers, with diesel emissions declining but still above federally accepted levels of clean air.
A second phase of the study will examine diesel exposure disparity between specific jobs and facilities in the national trucking industry.