Are diesel emissions really the main cause of air pollution?

Are diesel emissions really the main cause of air pollution?

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Exhaust gas minimizers get hard scolding from specialist societies

The prevailing air pollution is rated by the World Health Organization as one of the ten biggest global health threats of our time. Are diesel cars really the core problem of air pollution or is only a culprit sought in the wake of mass hysteria? There have been heated discussions lately. Some pulmonologists question diesel exhaust gases as the main source, while other specialist societies such as the Association of Pediatric Pulmonologists and the Society for Pediatric Pneumology consider the critics to be untrustworthy. How harmful are diesel emissions really?

According to data from the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), 61 percent of all nitrogen dioxide in the air comes from motor vehicles. Almost three quarters of this share comes from diesel emissions. According to the Federal Environment Agency, diesel vehicles are the largest source of nitrogen dioxide in Germany. This proportion is a nationwide average, which can also be higher in metropolitan areas.

Why are nitrogen dioxide dangerous?

When we speak of diesel exhaust gases, we primarily mean the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions. According to the WHO, the harmless amount for long-term exposure should be less than 40 micrograms of NO2 per cubic meter of air. "If a limit is exceeded, this does not necessarily mean that people will become ill or die as a result," writes the UBA in a message. However, this increases the risk of numerous diseases and complaints, including high blood pressure, heart attack, bronchial asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Air pollution as a risk factor

Air pollution is only one of several risk factors that trigger such diseases. The individual risk of developing a disease due to air pollutants cannot yet be predicted. However, the Federal Environment Agency names several large studies that have shown that "living in polluted outdoor air for years and decades - similar to an unhealthy lifestyle - leads to health problems and a lower life expectancy for some of the total population".

Support from professional associations

The Society for Pediatric Pneumology (GPP) and the Association of Pulmonary Specialists for Children and Adolescents recently joined the WHO in a public statement. "Pulmonologists for children and adolescents expressly point out the harmful effects of air pollutants documented in numerous scientific papers," writes the GPP board. The limit values ​​were developed by international teams of experts on the basis of the literature available worldwide on the effects of air pollutants on health and were documented by numerous large studies in renowned specialist journals.

Scolded the critics

This position is also supported by the German Society for Pneumology and Respiratory Medicine (DGP), the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and the International Forum of Pneumological Societies (FIRS). "Anyone who sows public doubts about the health-damaging potential of air pollutants without quoting scientific papers violates the principles of medical science," criticizes the GPP. The Federal Environment Agency also has little understanding for the opposite position: "In the context of the current study situation, there is rather the need to regulate some air pollutants such as fine dust even more strictly and not, as currently incomprehensibly suggested, to question or even suspend the current limit values" , writes the UBA in a press release.

The German Center for Lung Research (DZL) also joins the discussion. "There is no scientific doubt that exposure to air pollutants poses a health hazard to the population", the DZL experts judge in a current statement. This applies to respiratory and lung diseases as well as to heart diseases. However, there is currently no method by which a doctor can determine the proportion of air pollution that has contributed to a disease. "In the current nitrogen oxide discussion, science-populist statements have experienced rapid media appreciation," is how the DZL assesses the discussion. However, political decisions should be based on solid scientific knowledge. (vb)

Author and source information

Video: English Major pollutants from IC engines. Hydrcarbons and Nitrogen oxides. Emissions analysis (September 2022).


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