Deadly Diesel

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

Have you ever driven behind a bus or some other diesel powered vehicle that was belching black smoke? I would expect that more than nine chances out of ten the answer is “Yes”. Over the years there has been a mild and intermittent lobby against pollution from vehicles that has never really gotten off the ground. However, the news coming out of the World Health Organization (WHO) might give renewed vigour to the campaign against vehicles spewing out noxious fumes.

The New York Times reported on June 12, 2012 that the World Health Organization has declared that there is a clear causal link between diesel fumes and lung cancer. WHO also said that diesel fumes was a possible cause of bladder cancer. Additionally, there is research which suggests that occupational diesel exposure was a far greater lung cancer risk than passive cigarette smoking.

Most likely, you would have suspected that diesel fumes were harmful, but now a reputable international agency has confirmed your worst fears. With this information, where do we go from here? It is possible but not practicable to simply ban the use of diesel to eliminate this newly identified death threat. But it is possible to minimise the harm that could result from using diesel for vehicles and power generation. Spare a thought for Transport Board Supervisors who work in bus stands where buses park and do not turn off the engines. Also this country has a fairly reliable electricity supply, but what about the persons who work in the plants that use cheap bunker C fuel. How many of those workers die from unexplained lung cancer?

Barbados does not have many options, but as a first step, Government should follow the Unites States example and mandate the use of ultra-low-sulphur diesel in vehicles. Very often we hear complaints from consumers who use diesel about its quality which result in damage or underperforming engines.

So far, judging from the clouds of thick black soot which pour out of vehicle exhaust pipes on our roads on a daily basis; it seems that little has been done to source a better quality product. Suppliers must now import a better grade of diesel or it must be made mandatory by Government in light of WHO’s declaration that diesel fumes are carcinogenic. The focus must also change from protecting vehicle engines to protecting our health. Accordingly, I am looking forward to the day when I can drive behind a diesel powered vehicle and not choke.

If I had the option I would rather die from natural causes than from lung cancer caused by ingesting diesel fumes.

0 thoughts on “Deadly Diesel

  1. There must be story why Barbados has been importing high sulphur diesel all these years?

    Why has Bajan consumers sheepishly allowed this type of diesel to be pumped into their high performance vehicles?

    Like Caswell stated, now we have a more compelling reason to do it.

  2. David

    You should be aware that the Barbadian attitude is that someone else would develop lung cancer and not them. So I hardly expect many of our people to lift a finger to protest what can only be termed attempted manslaughter by the continued use of the byproduct that is imported into Barbados as diesel.

  3. Man Caswie
    In the order of the state of things with people setting flystick and eating black bird….cancer from diesel fumes …not all that important for the mass….a man at the D top maybe..Men fighting for food in these hard times and in a real crown dance…

  4. What I would add..because of the poor poor quality of the fuel we are getting bout here… the reason we are occasioning so much black smoke….CHEAPER lesser quality stuff so that Chris n Jasper n BARNOC could sell us a HIGHER prices… load the treasury…..cancer for the society that is more than an economy…financial wickedness…I call it

  5. It would be interesting to see a comparative research study about the rate of cancers along say Black Rock Main Road or any other very busy main road, and the rate in a village deep in rural Barbados, one of those villages which still get only 2 buses on mornings and 2 on evenings.

    Such a study would surely be instructive. And it need not be a live study, we can probably extrapolate this data from death certificates

  6. Data is available and a study can be done, gps tagging can be used for cases but, unlike illness with acute exascerbations like asthma, any study of cancer would have to be on a long term, on going basis, as a cohort. It would be expensive, and what would we do if a study could conclusively demonstrates increased risk? Probably better off saving the money, switching to higher quality fuel, as a side note if the Government wasn’t fking the public on road tax some of these same vehicles would be serviced a little more often.( that is a big factor)

    Black smoking diesel is essentially incomplete combustion, bad fuel hits the pumps and injectors really hard ( especially poor storage, moisture and “algae” ) All this talk about ultra low sulphur fuel is a double edge sword, sure it’ll be better for common rail engines, but the vast majority of diesel engines are still indirect injection and those pumps need the sulphur for lubricity. We could used ulsd but the older engines will need to use 2 cycle oil to restore lubricity. As for carcinogens, incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons, especially formation of derivative aromatic compounds is far more dangerous than sulphur. Which introduces the uncomfortable fact, unleaded gasoline produces for benzene derivatives than lead gasoline, and by that alone is more carcinogenic.

    So back to a study of diesels effect on lung cancer rates….how do we control for the gasoline engines.

    And as for cancer deaths, lung has been on a decline secondary to decreades tobacco use. We probably would do better focusing on colon cancer.

    • It is really sad how we focus on the unimportant things in life.

      Here is what PM Stuart is quoted to have said about this matter:


      “He said Government had “instructed the BNOCL to examine the feasibility of importing the low-sulphur diesel” and the company had started the exercise.

      However, he pointed out that “there are myriad challenges that must be overcome in order for BNOCL” to make the change.

      Neither the company nor the gas stations have the infrastructure to carry both high- and low-sulphur diesel, so they would have to build new infrastructure, he explained.”

  7. And in Barbados we are proud to pay top price for real estate located near the ABC Highway, which caters to a heavy volume of diesel powered vehicles. But black smoke does not occur due to the use of ‘cheap’ diesel fuel, but is primarily the result of incomplete combustion. This will occur when (a) the vehicle filtration system is not properly maintain, (b) when the diesel fuel injection equipment is tampered with in order to get an extra 2/3 MPH head start over the competition, and (c) when the fuel injection equipment is repaired by untrained person probably using uncalibrated test equipment. The source of the danger, in my opinion lies mainly with this partially burnt fuel, just as Carbon Monoxide poisoning is possible when one is in an enclosed space using fuel burning lamps and heaters , the wicks of which are not properly trimmed, and as a results the fuel is partially burnt.
    I ‘ve worked with one on the biggest Transport Organisations in Europe ,using massive diesel engines in all types of locations, and I cannot recall any deaths or chronic diseases associated with diesel engines. The medical people regularly carried out various tests both in the field and in the workplaces, and personal as a matter of routine because of the nature of their core jobs were given regular medical check up. I myself has spent over 4 decades in close proximity to diesel engines and am still enjoying good health.

    • @Caswell

      Is this submission your kiss and makeup with Brother Carl Moore?

      We know he reads BU and expected he would have jumped in here to give you some support.

    • David

      I don’t think that Carl Moore and I had fallen out. He was wrong and I accept that.

  8. This was already mention by nation last year. In fact if you examine most diesel vehicle i would guess to prevent the black smoke they just need a proper engine overhaul and constant maintenance from them on. The mini bus and trucks don’t get maintenance as often as they should and this would clear up much of the problem. Low sulphur diesel would also clear up more of the problem. This would mean alot of overhauling of engine to make them compatible with it if they were to stop import high sulphur diesel. which isn’t going to happen unless our suppliers stop making it. Do like what we did when they were not going to sell leaded gas any more. Change the system people will complain and adapt for the better of everyone

  9. Now here is one possible answer to the deiesel problem, but are we willing to give up our motor vehicles (and our clothes?)

    World Naked Bike Ride: Toronto cyclists bare down–world-naked-bike-ride-toronto-cyclists-bare-down?bn=1
    Nobody should have been taken aback on Saturday to see some 150 stripped loins wheeling past Exhibition Place.

    It was at Coronation Park, just outside the Princes’ Gates, where Toronto participants in the eighth annual World Naked Bike Ride bared down and headed downtown to protest automobile pollution and the dangers cars pose to cyclists everyday…“We’re on the City of Toronto website… describing the poster for this year’s event, a city archival photo of a naked ride in the Don Valley … in 1912…“It’s our 100th anniversary,”

    • @Caswell

      BU notes with interest that the nation newspaper is giving your letters to the editor great prominence.

      You have been promoted to Guest columnist?

    • David

      I think that it has something to do with the fact that I write things that are relevant and interesting. If you remember the one about water rates, I am happy to report that a lawyer approached me and offered his services for free to sue BWA. Unfortunately, I am not a customer.

    • @Caswell

      To clarify:are you saying your several articles over the years have NOT been interesting and deserving of a more regular status in the Nation?

    • David (10:25 am)

      I am not saying that. I would not have submitted them if I thought otherwise but it is not my judgment call to make.

  10. @Onions

    What I would add..because of the poor poor quality of the fuel we are getting bout here… the reason we are occasioning so much black smoke….CHEAPER lesser quality stuff so that Chris n Jasper n BARNOC could sell us a HIGHER prices… load the treasury…..cancer for the society that is more than an

    economy…financial wickedness…I call it
    You are so full of it…… As someone who doesn’t live there but returns as often as possible I notice many things that may not be apparent or are ignored by many full time residents and one thing that has not changed over the years is the quality of the emissions coming from many vehicles especially the Public Service vehicles e.g. ZR’s and the like. Whether the BLP or DLP running things it is always the same, don’t get me started on the noise emanating from some vehicles, people seem to take pride in driving their noisy cycles and cars driving through the neighbourhood at 3.00 am.
    Barbados is one noisy place, I wonder what the statistics are on the number of people who are hard of hearing or have gone deaf.

  11. That reminds me that this issue is of Environmental concern and there is an upcoming Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and frankly the news isn’t good. While I was driving home one afternoon I heard a report on the issue and there was a sound bite from Liz Thompson who is one of the coordinators of the conference.

  12. Man Sarge
    You ain’t know what going on down here…that BLACK SMOKE is poor poor quality 4347 diesel kerosene blend… I should know affa spending 5 yrs at the Garrison in a first job… hush ..and try and find some gud souse…when the Saturdays come …lol…..Onions D chemical engineer of past …even naptha would burn a better mix ..ask AOD.

  13. @Onions

    I know that you is a PHD (piled higher and deeper) but I didn’t know that they teach you how to differentiate between the different types of black smoke in PHD school. Blowing smoke is another matter that you are good at.

    Man lay off the pork both the sousal variety and touch pork or lay off smoking the vegetable matter as they both seem to provide some false notion that you could tell the difference of exhaust fumes from vehicles when the BLP is in power as opposed to when the DLP is in power.

  14. @ Sarge
    LOL……Barbados got the best souse…..and we all know the unscrupulous lot are making a mint selling us motorist low quality petrols at high high prices…..its scandalous….its called Govt Capitalism unleashed on the poor subjects and clowns like clone can’t tell the difference…you on the other hand …LOL

  15. David

    On behalf of the fathers on this blog I hereby launch a protest on the lack of recognition by the blogmaster(s) on this very important day.

    Shame on you

  16. David, Caswell and I share a few things in common the most important being that we sign our names to the views we express.

    I look forward to the day when bloggers—many of whom on this medium make sound and at times profound contributions—can grow the balls to sign their names to what they write.

    I admire him and I have already told him so.

    You asked me to “jump in” and I have. I will now jump back out and let the symphony of faceless people continue. I gone again.

    Carl Moore

  17. Look I tired of Carl Moores trying to derail the freedom of speech occasioned by BU. Look Carl…if that day should come I shall be Robert Best…ok

  18. Derail what freedom of speech, Onions! What about RESPONSIBILITY of speech? Take the musty onion bag off your face and identify yourself.

    You know who I am; why are you afraid to let me know who you are? I dare you; show your face, man.

    Did you ever express a view outside your home before the blogs came along?

    You can’t be Robert Best: he never hid behind a mask.

  19. How about Joseph Stalin cuz you like you miss my point. If I wanted to write under orthodox parlance, I would in one of the regular newspapers. But can what is exposed and dealt with here be published by the regulars ? Man Carl if this really so bad a rag….why do you come here for a read ? Why do the callers of Brass tack ..discuss almost everything that is published here first, on mornings ?Cannot understand your peeve at all….BU stands nine furlongs when it come to honest commentary in social media and the people’s pulse…..both the Nation and Advocate watching….in amaze.

  20. How Stalin got into it? Why not Hitler, too? He seems to be more relevant to the discussion here. He was known for gassing Jews in Belsen, Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor and the other death camps.

    Why not get back to Mr. Franklyn’s point about the new WHO findings?

    A few weeks ago the Minister of Health stormed: “I wish to send a strong warning to those whose vehicle exhaust systems need to be fixed and to those who like to draw a match to burn their garbage on their properties … your days are numbered!”

    I reminded him that the Prime Minister had another view. It was that the low sulphur diesel would cost more per gallon at source and together, with the costs of shipping the small amount that Barbados needed, would cost more per gallon than the high sulphur product.

    The Government would like to import only the low sulphur product and while there are environmental benefits to be derived, he said that they would have to compare “all the incremental costs and logistics” before making the decision on a complete shift to the low sulphur product.

    I concluded like this: “If we want cleaner vehicle emissions, we will have to import more expensive fuel. That’s not going to happen anytime soon.”

    More cancer beckons.

  21. @Carl Moore

    Don’t give up the fight as far as noise pollution goes.

    However a bit of advice, use any medium necessary to promote the cause because this is what matters.

  22. Now you only took two nips at the cherry to see where lies the true nectar….but such it is in the land of BU… to the newly asserted what we are getting now is a farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr poorer quality to what used to come in 2009.( and there is a responsible reporting” reason for that)…your sulfur talk ..just like in the fore-running.

  23. It appears as if we are more concern with the ‘bad’ diesel fuel mashing up our precious expensive vehicle engines moreso than wrecking our health.
    Just as a matter of interest,when the Jaguar Car was first imported to Barbados, the very low octane petrol available in Barbados was most unsuitable for this high class engine. With Bajan ingenuity, the problem was solved in a very practical way,sacrificing a bit of the engine power , but Jaguar engine subsequently ran quite well on the low octane gasolene.
    Barbados is now awash with university trained engineers any chance of a practical solution from them?

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