Have Diesel Emissions Lies Permanently Affected Our Air Quality?

Before the Dieselgate diesel emissions scandal happened, car owners happily drove around in diesel engine vehicles. They were happy because they were confident their vehicles were clean and safe for the environment. After all, everybody said that diesel was better than gasoline.

It was in the 1930s when diesel engines were first utilised for road transport. At that time, however, it was used specifically for commercial applications (taxis, ambulances, and vehicles for delivery). Diesel engines only became the popular choice for cars and passenger travel in the 1950s in Europe, where it was developed. Its popularity (and use) picked up in the years that followed. The diesel boom happened in the 1990s and ended in 2015. 

Part of the reason for the popularity of diesel was the incentives that came with purchasing diesel-powered vehicles. This was in line with the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. 

When various diesel emissions scandals started gaining attention, all the attention and praise heaped on diesel-powered vehicles started to wane. The most popular and high-profile scandal to ever happen to the automotive industry was the 2015 Dieselgate scandal, which started with German carmaker Volkswagen.

Why diesel-powered vehicles’ popularity declined

In September 2015, authorities belonging to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board found out that Volkswagen sold thousands of defeat device-equipped diesel-powered vehicles in the American market. VW officials initially brushed off the allegations but later retracted and admitted they knew about the illegal cheat devices. 

US authorities fined VW while some campaigners and legal firms started talking to affected car owners, encouraging them to bring emissions claim cases against the carmaker.

Aside from VW, other carmakers also got involved in the scandal. The first one to follow was Mercedes-Benz after US car owners joined together and decided to start a class-action lawsuit against the carmaker for alleged use of the defeat device. 

Other carmakers that were implicated in the diesel emissions scandal are BMW, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Peugeot, Nissan, Jeep, and Citroën. The defeat devices that authorities found in these vehicles are used to cheat emissions testing. 

If a vehicle has a defeat device installed, it is able to instantly detect when the car goes into testing. When it does, the device artificially lowers emissions levels so these would stay within the legal limits set by the WHO or World Health Organization.

Once the defeat device-equipped vehicle is taken for a drive in real-world road conditions though, the emissions levels significantly increase to amounts that are multiple times in excess of the WHO and EU limits. Thus, the vehicles emit dangerous nitrogen oxide or NOx emissions in voluminous amounts. NOx is a danger to both the environment and human health.

How the diesel emissions scandal has affected air quality

Over the years, since 2015, the effects of excess nitrogen oxide emissions have been felt throughout the world. In 2017, through an Environmental Health Analytics study, it was revealed that poor air quality due to NOx emissions were linked to worldwide excess deaths that numbered approximately 38,000. Most of these deaths were in Europe, where the diesel emissions scandal has had significant impacts and where the focus is bringing down CO2 or carbon dioxide emissions instead of eliminating NOx.

In 2018, NOx emissions made up 31% of the total emissions in the UK. Despite warnings, however, nitrogen oxide emissions in Britain’s urban areas still go beyond the mandated limits. 

Nitrogen oxide and its health impacts

NOx is a group of gases that has nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO). It contributes to the production of smog and acid rain, both of which are hazardous to human health and the environment. Additionally, nitrogen oxide is also responsible for the creation of ground-level ozone, another pollutant. 

Ground-level ozone poses risks to vegetation, particularly to crops and plants, which can become more susceptible to frost and damage once exposed to it. 

Although researchers continue to conduct studies on the impacts of NOx exposure to human health, there are already quite a number of cases that have proven how it can change one’s life because of the illnesses and conditions it can trigger.

A person constantly exposed to NOx emissions will have their airways affected and this can cause various respiratory conditions. For those who have asthma, NOx emissions can aggravate their symptoms. Those without asthma can develop the disease.

Exposure to NOx emissions may also cause breathing problems, headaches, nausea and vomiting, and respiratory ailments such as bronchitis and emphysema. Other possible impacts include asphyxiation and laryngospasm (or muscle spasm of the vocal cords). NOx emissions exposure can also lead to premature death.

In the year that the diesel emissions scandal erupted, there were approximately 64,000 premature deaths linked to air pollution in the UK.

Correcting the situation

While carmakers have been busy paying fines, facing lawsuits, and recalling affected vehicles; affected car owners have also been busy filing emissions claims against them. You should be, too. Carmakers should be held responsible for their deceitful actions that have claimed thousands of lives. 

Find out if you are eligible to file an emissions compensation claim by getting in touch with Emissions.co.uk. They will help you determine which step you should take next to ensure that your diesel claim is moving in the right direction.

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