International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - Summaries & Evaluations

Marine diesel fuel (Group 2B)
Distillate (light) diesel fuels (Group 3)

For definition of Groups, see Preamble Evaluation.

VOL.: 45 (1989) (p. 219)

CAS No.: 68334-30-5
Chem. Abstr. Name: Diesel oil

5. Summary of Data Reported and Evaluation

5.1 Exposure data

Diesel fuels are complex mixtures of alkanes, cycloalkanes and aromatic hydrocarbons with carbon numbers in the range of C9-C28 and with a boiling-range of 150-390 °C. Kerosene-type diesel fuel (diesel fuel No. 1) is manufactured from straight-run petroleum distillates [5]. Automotive and railroad diesel fuel (diesel fuel No. 2) contains straight-run middle distillate [6], often blended with straight-run kerosene [5], straight-run gas oil [7], light vacuum distillate [19] and light thermally cracked [30] or light catalytically cracked distillates [24]. Some blended marine diesel fuels also contain heavy residues from distillation [8, 21] and thermal cracking [31] operations. In diesel fuel consisting mainly of atmospheric distillates, the content of three- to seven-ring polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons is generally less than 5%; in diesel fuel that contains high proportions of heavy atmospheric, vacuum and light cracked distillates, the content of such polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons may be as high as 10%. Some marine diesel fuels may contain higher levels. Saleable diesel fuel may also contain a variety of additives, such as organic nitrates, amines, phenols and polymeric substances. Exposure to diesel fuel through the skin and by inhalation may occur during its production, storage, distribution and use as well as during maintenance of diesel engines.

5.2 Experimental data

One sample of marine diesel fuel was tested for carcinogenicity in one strain of mice by skin application, producing a few squamous-cell carcinomas and papillomas at the application site in animals of each sex and a few carcinomas at the adjacent inguinal region in males.

Two samples of straight-run kerosene [5], one sample of light vacuum distillate [19] and three samples of light catalytically cracked distillate [24] produced skin tumours in mice. Some residues from thermal cracking [31] produced benign and malignant skin tumours in mice. (See the monograph on occupational exposures in petroleum refining.)

N.B. - Subsequent to the meeting, the secretariat became aware of a study in which skin tumours were reported in mice after application to the skin of petroleum diesel (boiling range, 198-343 °C) [corresponding to diesel fuel No. 2] (Clark et al., 1988).

5.3 Human data

In a case-control study of cancer at many sites, there was evidence of an increased risk for squamous-cell carcinoma of the lung in men estimated to have had substantial exposure to diesel fuel. There was also an indication of an increased risk for cancer of the prostate. No attempt was made to separate the effects of combustion products from those of exposure to diesel fuel itself.

5.4 Other relevant data

Inhalation or ingestion of diesel fuel resulted in acute and persistent lung damage in humans.

No report specifically designed to study genetic and related effects in humans following exposure to diesel fuel was available to the Working Group.

Application of marine diesel fuel to the skin of mice resulted in ulceration.

In a single study, diesel fuel induced chromosomal aberrations in bone-marrow cells of rats; it did not induce mutation in cultured mammalian cells but was weakly mutagenic to bacteria. Another sample did not induce mutation in bacteria or algae; a sample of marine diesel fuel and aliphatic and aromatic fractions of a further sample were also not mutagenic to bacteria.

5.5 Evaluation

There is inadequate evidence for the carcinogenicity in humans of diesel fuels.

There is limited evidence for the carcinogenicity in experimental animals of marine diesel fuel.

In formulating the overall evaluation, the Working Group also took note of the following supporting evidence reported in the monograph on occupational exposures in petroleum refining. There is limited evidence for the carcinogenicity in experimental animals of straight-run kerosene and sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity in experimental animals of light vacuum distillates, of light catalytically cracked distillates and of cracked residues derived from the refining of crude oil.

Overall evaluation

Marine diesel fuel is possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).

Distillate (light) diesel fuels are not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans (Group 3).

For definition of the italicized terms, see Preamble Evaluation.

Synonyms for Diesel fuel (general)

Synonyms for Diesel fuel No. 1

Synonyms for Diesel fuel No. 2

Synonyms for Diesel fuel No. 4

Last updated 01/21/98

    See Also:
       Toxicological Abbreviations