Nitrogen oxide emissions, produced in particular by diesel vehicles, caused some 6,000 premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases in Germany in 2014, says an expert study released Thursday.
“We must do our utmost to keep our air clean and healthy,” says Maria Krautzberger, head of the study conducted by the German Federal Office for the Environment, which is based on numerous scientific and epidemiological statistics.
In addition to these deaths, nitrous oxide emissions are also responsible for the increase of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, chronic lung diseases and asthma.
As such, 8% of cases of diabetes, (437,000 people) and 14% of cases of asthma (439,000 people) are attributable in Germany to nitrogen oxide (NO2) emissions.
Pointed out by the study, large cities with heavy traffic should be the first to act.
“An important cause of deaths from the release of harmful nitrogen oxides into the air is clearly diesel cars,” says Krautzberger, quoted in a statement.
Road traffic is responsible for 60% of these emissions, including 72% diesel, according to the study.
The bans on the circulation of old diesel in cities may then be a good way to remedy to the problem, says Krautzberger.
At the end of February, the German justice had just opened this possibility.
Some 70 cities in Germany still had nitrogen dioxide levels in 2017 that exceeded the average annual threshold of 40 micrograms per cubic meter set by the European Union, according to the Federal Office for the Environment. Munich, Stuttgart and Cologne are the most affected cities.
A previous study published in May 2017 in the journal Nature had already concluded that NO2 emissions produced by diesel vehicles beyond the limits posted by the manufacturers had caused 38,000 premature deaths worldwide in 2015.
About 80% of these deaths occurred in three regions: the European Union (EU), China and India, the researchers wrote.
According to them, if the public authorities do not react, the number of premature deaths due to NOx emissions by vehicles running on diesel could reach 183,600 per year in 2040.
WHO has classified diesel as a certain carcinogen and emissions of gasoline engines as probable carcinogens.