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Fraud of Volkswagen and the future of diesel car

Article by Jordi Sunyer (CREAL), Josep M. Anto (CREAL) and Xavier Querol (CSIC), published on October 7th in La Vanguardia

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Fraud of Volkswagen and the future of diesel car

The diesel car was imposed after the Kyoto agreement to reduce CO2 emissions and reduce their impact on the greenhouse effect. In exchange, however, compared to the gasoline car, diesel emits four times more nitrogen oxides (NOx), and twenty times more particles (PM), a proportion of these quasi-ultrafine. Both types of pollutants have significant harmful effects on health.

NOx gases are responsible among other irritants asthma attacks and heart attacks. The PM is possibly the most toxic pollutants in urban air, especially about ultrafine PM, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study they are responsible of plus three million deaths in 2010. According to recent studies, the disease most often affected for PM is stroke, followed by myocardial infarction and respiratory diseases, including lung cancer. It is necessary to remember that in 2012 the International Agency on Cancer of the World Health Organization (WHO) classified diesel emissions as a carcinogen. Unfortunately the list of harmful effects on the health of PM is growing. The Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) has shown that exposure to PM during pregnancy increases levels of a marker of chronic inflammation in the placenta, contributing to a lower birth weight increases the risk of obesity in children and it has a detrimental effect on brain development and behavior disorders.

Due to the strength of the scientific evidence and the importance of health effects, there is an intense regulation of diesel cars in both Europe and the US, but these efforts have been insufficient to reduce PM levels below the limits recommended by the WHO. This situation is particularly worrying. In Barcelona more than 60% of cars are diesel and the limits NOx are permanently exceeded althought the improvement of the cars. Barcelona, with a high density of traffic, has the highest levels of NOx from dozens of cities in the EU ESCAPE study, the largest of this kind in Europe.

The information about the fraud of Volkswagen (VW) invites us to think about the incompatibility between emissions from diesel cars and public health and the need to react quickly and firmly by local, national and international authorities focusing on the need to protect health.

The VW fraud give us evidences that world leaders have failed in the industry of the automobile, for the great difficulty of creating clean diesel engines, or they have not wanted to create the diesel engines compatible with health and the environment. Due the failure of VW and the overwhelming evidence of damage to health that cause PM and NOx, we believe it is necessary to minimize motor vehicles on the streets of dense cities like Barcelona and eliminate the presence of diesel vehicles on them.

Here, the original article (Spanish version)


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