Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Reduce Carbon Gas Emissions using Diesel Vehicles or Eliminate Particulates - a choice between Mitigating Climate Change or Health Impacts

Beyond a One-Time Scandal: Europe’s Ongoing Diesel Pollution Problem (4 page pdf, Charles W. Schmidt, Environ Health Perspect, Jan. 2, 2016)

Today we review a recent assessment of the role of diesel vehicles in causing PM2.5 and NO2 and greater mortality as a result while also being the technology of choice, particularly in Europe with over 50% of vehicles with it, to reduce C02 emissions and mitigate climate change. The comparison with the US and Canada is striking where less than 3% of vehicles are diesel and CO2 emissions have soared from gasoline powered vehicles and less attention to emission reduction than in the EU. Clearly an optimum choice or balance needs to be made that looks at both the immediate health impacts of diesel and the equally important need to reduce carbon emissions.

diesel pm eu

Key Quotes: 

“Depending on individual driving habits and road conditions, real-world NOx emissions from affected 2.0-L engines could soar to 40 times the U.S. standard of 70 mg/mile.. Similarly, emissions from the 3.0-L engines found in sport utility vehicles and larger cars could reach 9 times the standard.”

“Diesel vehicles make up just 3% of the cars and pickup trucks driven in the United States.. By contrast, more than half of Europe’s passenger fleet is diesel-powered.”

“NOx, which diesel engines produce at high levels, is a collective term for gases including nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). NO has relatively minor health impacts at environmental levels. NO2, however, produces health effects ranging from mild cough and mucous membrane irritation to severe exacerbation of lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma”

“8–12% of Europe’s population is exposed to levels of NO2 that exceed the World Health Organization’s air quality guideline of 40 µg/m…The highest levels were measured near highways, where diesel vehicles contribute about 80% of traffic-related NOx emissions.”

“Generally speaking, the country with the continent’s worst air pollution problem is Italy, where exposures to PM2.5, O3, and NO2 contributed to an estimated 59,500, 21,600, and 3,300 premature deaths, respectively, in 2012.”

“Urban NO2 exposures can have dire consequences, contributing to an estimated 75,000 premature deaths throughout the European continent in 2012. Ground-level O3 exposures, meanwhile, contributed to an estimated 17,000 premature deaths, and 432,000 premature deaths were attributed to PM2.5” “Europe’s rise in diesel cars is rooted in well-intentioned efforts by national governments to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.”

“while test-cycle NOx emissions have decreased by 80% since 1992, the real-driving NOx emissions from diesel cars have actually increased by 20% over the same period.”

“In the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, EU countries (and officials in the United States and elsewhere) have pledged to shift quickly from laboratory-based to roadside emissions testing”

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