'Air pollution from roads causes at least €70bn (£62bn) in health damage every year in the European Union, according to a new report, with diesel fumes responsible for three-quarters of the harm.
The research, commissioned by the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), found the vast majority of the costs were borne by taxpayers through government-funded health services. But these costs could be reduced by 80% by 2030 if ambitious action were taken, the report concluded.
Diesel emissions have been in the spotlight since 2015 when Volkswagen was caught cheating regulatory tests. Virtually all diesel cars were then revealed to be pumping out far more pollution on the road than in official tests. Research in 2017 showed at least 38,000 people a year were dying early as a result of this failure.
In the UK, most urban areas have illegal levels of air pollution and ministers have lost three times in the high court over the inadequacy of their action. The latest government action plan, called “pitiful” by environmental lawyers, revealed air pollution was actually much worse than previously feared.
Some of the very latest diesel models do comply with official limits in real-world driving, but Zoltán Massay-Kosubek, policy manager at the EPHA, said: “I would not consider diesel as part of the solution, but as part of the problem. You can improve the filters but it still remains a fuel-burning technology.”
“Low and zero-emission alternatives would be a much more appropriate solution,” he said. “But as a public health advocate, I cannot stress enough the importance of walking and cycling, which give additional health benefits.”
The research used real world data on vehicle emissions and known impacts on health to calculate the total health costs for the 28 EU nations, including medical support, hospital admissions and early deaths. It took a conservative approach and only included health impacts conclusively linked to toxic air, such as heart attacks and lung diseases.'
Read more: Health effects of diesel 'cost European taxpayers billions'
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