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Diesel power bring premature deaths all over the world – it is worse than we thought

Diesel cars have many advantages. They use less fuel, generally have more torque and can be rather cheap to run. However, scientists are not very excited about them. A new study led by the International Council on Clean Transportation and Environmental Health Analytics found that diesel cars produce 50 % more nitrogen oxide than originally thought.

Diesel cars are emitting nitrogen oxides, which are linked to many premature deaths. Image credit: Ruben de Rijcke (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia

Scientists examined 11 major vehicle markets representing more than 80% of new diesel vehicle sales in 2015 and found vehicles emitted 13.2 million tons of nitrogen oxide under real-world driving conditions, which is 50 % more than predicted before. These are very bad news, because nitrogen oxide is associated to crop losses and some serious threats to health of society all over the world. Scientists say that it is especially threatening to Chinese wheat, Chinese maize, and Brazilian soy, but in this case air pollution is more important.

Outdoor air pollution is a big problem in all big cities of the world and, as you might have guessed by now, nitrogen oxide is a key contributor to it. Air pollution can cause a large range of various health problems, such as stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. However, it is not our diesel cars that should be blamed for this issue. Researcher Josh Miller said: “Heavy-duty vehicles, such as commercial trucks and buses, were by far the largest contributor worldwide, accounting for 76% of the total excess gas emissions”. Diesel cars are actually not that popular in the world – they are mostly driven in Europe, where they can enjoy cheaper fuel and low costs of maintenance.

How bad these emissions really are? It is estimated that in 2015 they can be linked to approximately 38,000 premature deaths worldwide, mostly in the European Union, China, and India. Scientists are estimating that these numbers could be lowered by 10 % if diesel vehicle emissions were meeting standards. However, situation is likely to get worse – in 2040 183,600 early deaths could occur due to diesel nitrogen oxide emissions. Is there any way to prevent that?

Scientists say that some restrictions to diesel-powered vehicles could help. In some cities diesel cars will not be allowed to enter city centres, car industry is encouraged to move towards electric and hybrid powertrains. It won’t be long until diesel cars will be only in history books.

 

Source: University of York

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