Diesel health risks "could be cut by 90%"

German environment minister calls for particulate control technology to be required for cars, LCVs

German environment minister Jürgen Trittin has called for legislation requiring diesel particulate emission control technology to be extended to cover diesel cars and light commercial vehicles as well as buses and trucks.

Mr Trittin, together with environment agency chief Andreas Troge, spoke out after a study led by the contract scientific research organisation, the Frauenhofer Institute, showed that particulate filters can reduce pollutant emissions from diesel engines, and therefore the carcinogenic risk posed by particulates, by more than 90%. Particulates from diesel engines are almost solely responsible for the carcinogenic effects of diesel emissions.

The study was commissioned in 1997 jointly by the German environment ministry and environment agency in response to increasing numbers of test results showing that particulates posed a greater health problem than previously thought. It concludes that tailpipe emissions from older diesel cars have nearly ten times the carcinogenic potential of those from petrol driven cars without catalytic convertors.

Although recent technical developments and existing and planned emissions legislation have allowed the carcinogenic emissions from diesel cars to be reduced to about 11% of 1980 levels, the introduction of particulate filters would reduce them to only 1.4%. This would make the carcinogenic potential of diesel engines comparable to that of petrol engines fitted with catalytic convertors, the report says.

At the Council of Ministers meeting in December last year (ENDS Daily 22 December 1998) progressively more stringent diesel particulate limits for trucks and buses were agreed. The 2005 particulate limits can currently only be met with diesel particulate filter or trap technology.

The next stages of the "auto oil" legislation to be phased in in 2000 and 2005 for passenger and light commercial vehicles do not require diesel trap technology. According to a German environment ministry official, more stringent particulates legislation for passenger car emissions is limited by measurement technology. A joint European, US and Japanese working group is currently looking at new measuring techniques based on particulate number or surface area.

Follow Up:
German environment agency, tel: +49 30 89030; German environment ministry, tel: +49 228 3050; European Commission, tel: +332 299 1111.

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