The Environment and NOx Increase from the Diesel Scandal

December 12, 2017 | By Sylwia Myśliwska
The Environment and NOx Increase from the Diesel Scandal

In an article published by DW Akademie, a worrying prediction for the effect of NOx diesel emissions on public health has been made in light of the VW emissions scandal.

In 2015, a study found that illegal nitrogen oxide emissions were: “…linked to 38,000 premature deaths…” This figure was taken from a total of 107,600 NOx emission related deaths around the world.

From this figure, over 30% of NOx related deaths came from the EU, a large number with almost a quarter of these due to illegal levels of emitted NOx gases from diesel engine cars and vans – making this the highest of all regions globally.

Now, this data has been used to predict that, by 2040, the number of people dying: “…due to diesel nitrogen oxide could grow to more than 180,000.”

The data shows that: “The EU has the biggest problem with illegal and unregulated diesel NOx emissions”.

In a separate article published in the Guardian UK, a scientific study has revealed that the extent of the damage caused by the VW emissions scandal diesel vehicles fitted with the defeat device could be around 250K-1 Million tonnes of NOx released into the atmosphere every year when ‘judged against the 2016 model emissions standards’.

Under such comparisons, the ‘dieselgate’ vehicle emissions could: “… equate to all of the UK’s NOx emissions from all power stations, vehicles, industry and agriculture”.

The article goes on to explore what the wide-ranging implications on human health are: “[t]he fumes can cause inflammation of the airways and worsen breathing for anyone.” In addition, it warns that: “…NOx emissions can also react with other compounds to cause more serious respiratory conditions and aggravate heart problems. Long-term exposure to the pollution hastens death: research [has] linked high levels of NOx to 9,500 premature deaths annually in London alone.”

NOx emissions can also react to form other pollutants like ozone. This gas, while a benefit for life on the planet when it exists high up in the atmosphere, causes permanent lung tissue scarring when inhaled at ground level. According to the European Environmental Agency and the US Environmental Protection Agency, even when in its pure form, NOx can contribute to “acid rain and suffocating smog”.

The scientific community is only beginning to uncover the range of effects that NOx emissions are having on the environment. In 2013, neuroscientists at Southampton University discovered that NOx gases were responsible for blocking the receptors in honeybees. As these insects are vital to the pollination of crops, an industry worth an estimated 430 million pounds in the UK alone — the effect of NOx to prevent bees from recognising the required flora to produce honey as well as performing the role of powerful crop yield catalysts could have a dramatic outcome in other sectors of industry as well as the environment.