Swedish EPA warns increase in diesel cars could damage environment

New diesel cars cause more harm to the environment and to health than new petrol-fuelled cars, according to a study carried out by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

The study found that diesel cars emit much greater amounts of nitrogen oxides, particulates and carcinogenic substances than new petrol-driven cars. And as more and more car buyers switch to diesel, the study anticipates a considerable increase in nitrogen oxide emissions.

The study shows that if diesel car sales rise from 1 to 20 percent, emissions of nitrogen oxides from new cars will double and particulate emissions will be 2.5 times higher. Nitrogen oxide emissions contribute to the acidification of lakes and soil and to the eutrophication of coastal waters.

Advertisers often stress the fact that diesels use 20 to 25 percent less fuel. However, one litre of diesel oil produces about 15 percent more carbon dioxide than one litre of petrol, meaning that emissions of carbon dioxide are only negligibly less from diesel cars. An increase in diesel car sales from 1 to 20 percent therefore reduces carbon dioxide emissions by a mere 1-2 per cent.

In terms of cancer risk, negative effects on respiratory passages and acute health problems, a modern petrol-driven car has the least negative impact on our health. Emissions from new diesel cars are estimated to be 3-4 times more carcinogenic than emissions from petrol cars. A modern diesel also emits about 10-15 times more particulates than a modern petrol car. New diesels are however much better than older ones.

“The current trend in increased sales of diesel cars is actually jeopardising our chances of achieving the environmental goals for cleaner air and reduced acidification and eutrophication”, says Reino Abrahamsson at the Swedish EPA.

“For the sake of the environment, it is better if car buyers choose a fuel-efficient environmentally classified petrol-driven car rather than a diesel”, he adds.

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