Deadly risk we take to cut car costs
Filed under: Motoring
So what are the risks, and what does it mean for you?
Motoring advice & info
The risksThe WHO has just reclassified diesel fumes to reflect what it sees as a heightened risk from fumes. It now puts them in the same category asbestos and arsenic, because it has concluded that the fumes don't just run the risk of possibly causing cancer - they actually do cause lung cancer and bladder cancer.
Motoring advice & info
Dr. Christopher Portier, chairman of the WHO Working Group, said, "The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group's conclusion was unanimous: diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans."
In fact,the group concluded that regular exposure could raise your cancer risk as much as regular passive smoking.
It has called for individuals to review their exposure levels, and called on governments to reflect this increased risk, by taking steps to control diesel fumes.
What does this mean?The good news is that newer diesel engines make a significant difference to the dangers of inhaling fumes. The other good news is that your exposure is unlikely to highly significant unless you live exceptionally close to a major road carrying a significant number of heavy diesel vehicles or are exposed to fumes at work (in which case you are protected by laws demanding exposure is kept at safe levels).
The other thing to bear in mind is that diesel emissions are already controlled in the UK. A spokesman from the AA says: "The EU is already legislating heavily on emissions standards anyway and we have agreements on lowering emissions. Diesel cars in Europe have never been cleaner, and they are going to get cleaner still."
He points out that this is a global report, and will be including parts of the world with lower emissions standards. He says that this isn't a reason to be complacent, because there is much to be done to clean up vehicles like lorries and buses. However, the car industry is pulling its weight in cleaning up cars.
Wealth risksIn fact, the main risk within the UK may not be to your health - it may be to your wealth. There is the risk that the UK government will take action by increasing the tax on diesel cars producing more fumes (in the same way it has with CO2). The AA Spokesman said this was "no excuse for more tax." However, the Treasury hasn't always needed much excuse to increase taxes.
When the government is given the opportunity of increasing a tax and claiming it's in order to protect our health, it doesn't tend to hold back: just look at what has happened to booze and alcohol taxes. Diesel cars have proliferated largely because the tax is lower to reflect lower CO2 emissions. The risk is that George Osborne revisits this decision, and hikes the tax on cars emitting diesel fumes.
At the moment we can only wait and see - and think very carefully before buying a new car.