Diesel emissions: what harm do they cause to human health and the environment?

Multiple vehicles on a congested road in a cloud of diesel emissions.

Since the diesel emissions scandal originally broke in 2015, diesel vehicles have been under scrutiny.

It was discovered that numerous car manufacturers had used defeat devices in their diesel vehicles to cheat emissions tests. Diesel vehicles that were once marketed as environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient, were found to be emitting more than the legal limit of nitrogen oxides when tested in real-world driving conditions.

Millions of vehicles are affected by the diesel emissions scandal.

In this article, we take a look at what diesel emissions are and how they negatively impact both human health and the environment.emissions

What are diesel emissions?

Diesel emissions are pollutants that are emitted by vehicles. The vehicle’s engine releases a mixture of gases and fine particles into the air from the exhaust system.

The main components of diesel emissions are nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbon. These emissions can contribute to air pollution and have been linked to a variety of health problems.

Diesel emissions often contain higher levels of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides than emissions from petrol vehicles.

Are diesel emissions harmful to human health?

The pollutants in diesel emissions, particularly nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter, have been linked to several health problems such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and premature death.

NOx can cause respiratory irritation and aggravate asthma and other lung conditions, as well as contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, which is harmful to human health.

People at higher risk of exposure are those that live or work in areas with high levels of air pollution, such as urban areas with high traffic. Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions are also vulnerable to the health effects.

In 2018, a report by the Royal College of Physicians estimated that outdoor air pollution, including that from diesel emissions, was responsible for around 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year.

Are diesel emissions harmful to the environment?

The negative effects from the pollutants in emissions from diesel can have a range of effects on the environment, including:

  • Air pollution: Diesel emissions can contribute to poor air quality, which can harm plants, animals, and other organisms. Nitrogen oxides can also contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, which can damage crops and other vegetation.
  • Climate change: Nitrogen oxide and particulate matter can contribute to global warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere and altering the Earth’s climate.
  • Acid rain: Nitrogen oxide can contribute to the formation of acid rain, which can damage forests, lakes, and other ecosystems.
  • Water pollution: Diesel emissions can contribute to water pollution by depositing nitrogen and sulphur compounds on the land, which can then be carried into rivers and other bodies of water through runoff.

Diesel emissions contribute to the overall burden of air pollution and can have a significant negative impact on public health. As a result, there have been efforts to reduce the use of diesel vehicles and to promote alternative, cleaner modes of transport in the UK.

How much damage have diesel emissions caused to the environment?

The transport sector, which includes diesel vehicles, is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK and globally.

The exact amount of damage caused to the environment by diesel vehicles is difficult to quantify. It depends on a number of factors, such as the number and type of vehicles, the driving patterns and conditions, and the emissions standards and regulations in place.

However, diesel vehicles are a significant contributor to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The harmful pollutants emitted by these vehicles have a serious and substantial impact on both the environment and public health.

The dieselgate scandal, which involved car manufacturers cheating emissions tests, also highlighted the scale of the problem and the need for stricter regulations and enforcement. As a result, there is increasing pressure to reduce the use of diesel vehicles and promote cleaner alternatives, to mitigate the environmental damage caused.

What UK laws are in place to prevent damage from diesel emissions?

In the UK, there are several laws and regulations in place that aim to reduce the impact of diesel emissions on human health and the environment by limiting the amount of pollutants that can be released into the air. These include:

  • The Clean Air Act: A law passed in 1956 to control air pollution in the UK. It has since been updated and amended to include new pollutants and address emerging issues. The Act sets emissions limits for certain types of vehicles, including diesel-powered vehicles.
  • The Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations: Regulations that set standards for the construction, maintenance, and use of vehicles in the UK, including requirements for exhaust and noise.
  • The Euro emission standard: A series of regulations that set limits on the number of pollutants that can be emitted by new vehicles sold in the European Union, including the UK.
  • Low Emissions Zones (LEZs): Several cities in the UK, including London and Birmingham, have established Low Emission Zones to restrict access to the most polluting vehicles, to improve air quality.
  • Vehicle excise duty (VED): An annual tax (also known as road tax), paid by vehicle owners in the UK. In 2018, changes were made to the VED system to incentivise the purchase of cleaner vehicles and penalise the most polluting vehicles, including those with high NOx emissions.

Contact us

A number of car manufacturers have misled their customers and failed to comply with UK emissions laws. These manufacturers have essentially prioritised profit over public health and the environment. We believe they should be held to account for their wrongdoing.

We’re seeking justice for consumers who owned or purchased a diesel Renault vehicle between 2008 and 2020. If your vehicle is affected, you may be entitled to compensation.

Simply check your registration number below to find out if your vehicle is affected, and details of how to join our ‘no win, no fee’ claim, or visit our Renault FAQ page.

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