Children whose fathers work around diesel-powered vehicles and heavy machinery are more likely to develop brain tumours, according to a new study.
Researchers from the Western Australia Institute for Medical Research and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research found that children with fathers who were exposed to diesel exhaust fumes at work about the time of conception were 62 percent more likely to have brain tumors.
The results, published in the International Journal of Cancer, also showed that children of women exposed to diesel fumes at work before the birth had twice the risk of brain tumors.
The researchers said that while diesel technology had improved in the past 20 years, resulting in lower emissions, exposure around ships and heavy duty equipment in the mining and construction industries was still largely uncontrolled.
Susan Peters, from WAIMR, said the study looked at 306 children with brain tumors from 10 children's hospitals across Australia.
She said childhood brain tumors were the leading cause of cancer death in children, and most developed before age five.
"We know that malignant brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer mortality in children but despite decades of research, the risk factors are largely unknown," Dr Peters said. "This work on the occupational hazards faced by parents of children with brain tumors also looked at other factors which may be involved in children developing tumors."
Dr Peters said that researchers started investigating parental exposure to diesel exhaust after the International Agency for Research on Cancer listed it as a human carcinogen. The only engine exhaust fumes found to have a link to childhood brain tumors were from diesel fuel.
She said the findings on fathers' exposure were likely to be more significant than those for women because men were far more likely to work in industries where they were exposed to diesel exhaust fumes.
Researchers were now looking at other occupational exposures, including pesticides and solvents and their possible link to childhood brain tumors.
Read more in the International Journal of Cancer: