It has long been known that some of the ingredients within gasoline cause cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a program of the World Health Organization, classifies benzene, a principal ingredient of gasoline, and 1,3 butadiene, a component of gasoline exhaust, as Group 1 carcinogens (chemicals which cause cancer in humans).
Now, new research in peer-reviewed scientific journals from around the world is finding that people exposed to high levels of vehicle exhaust or to gasoline vapors are at significantly higher risk of getting cancer.
A 2015 study shows elevated risk of eye cancer for children living closer to busy roads. A 2014 study from Texas shows that children living in census tracts with high levels of vehicle pollution were more than 50% more likely to have cancers of the brain and central nervous system. The Texas study follows 2013 epidemiological research from UCLA showing that children born on streets with higher levels of traffic and vehicle exhaust have substantially increased risk of leukemia and cancers of the testicles, ovaries, and eyes. These findings correlate closely with a study from Italy showing significantly elevated leukemia risk for children exposed to benzene from vehicle exhaust.
People living near or working in gas stations also have cause for concern. A 2012 study from Thailand demonstrated substantially higher cancer rates for those living near gas stations. A 2014 study of gas station attendants in Brazil showed much higher frequency of chromosomal abnormalities, a frequent precursor. A 2011 study from Spain demonstrated elevated levels of cancer-causing benzene as far as 100 meters from gas stations.
Many other health risks are associated with vehicle exhaust, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease. One study found that people living near polluted roadways were twice as likely to die from a heart attack as those living in cleaner areas.
Gasoline is a cancer-causing agent whose use creates serious health risks to all people, and particularly children, who are exposed to vehicle exhaust or to gasoline vapors. People who live or work in areas with high levels of vehicle exhaust are at especially high risk, as are those who regularly fill their vehicles with gasoline.
Eliminating the widespread use of gasoline and diesel will result in significant public health benefits.