Toxic gases from diesel cars are killing thousands of people every year

Toxic gases from diesel cars are killing thousands of people every year
A gas station offers diesel fuel to customers in Frankfurt, Germany. Now, a recent study suggests that nitrogen oxides emitted from diesel-fuel cars is directly attributable to thousands of deaths a year across many European nations. Michael Probst/AP
A gas station offers diesel fuel to customers in Frankfurt, Germany. Now, a recent study suggests that nitrogen oxides emitted from diesel-fuel cars is directly attributable to thousands of deaths a year across many European nations. Michael Probst/AP

Pollution from diesel fuel in cars is directly related to thousands of deaths in Europe every year, according to a recent study.

Diesel cars are known to pump less carbon dioxide into the air, which is a plus for the environment. But they also emit higher levels of toxic nitrogen oxides (or NOx for short). These gases are scary stuff: They can cause headaches, eye irritation, breathing problems and damage to our teeth.

The study estimates that pollution from diesel cars, vans and light commercial vehicles directly amounts to roughly 10,000 premature deaths every year across 30 countries. About half of those deaths could have been prevented if imposed diesel limits were actually met, the study stated.

John Swanton, spokesman with the California Air Resources Board, explains how to evaluate a 2013 diesel-fuel Volkswagen Passat at an emissions test lab on Sept. 30, 2015. Nick Ut/AP

And if diesel vehicle emissions “were as low as petrol car emissions, three quarters or about 7,500 premature deaths could have been avoided,” Jens Borken-Kleefeld, a transportation expert at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, said in a release.

Europe has long favored the diesel car, which makes up about 50% of its market — an incredibly large portion considering that diesel vehicles make up 3% of the United States’, according to the BBC.

Even so, NOx emissions are still a problem for the U.S. — especially after an incident that some are calling “dieselgate” or “diesel dupe.” In late 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency accused the Volkswagen Group of planting a special software in about 482,000 of their diesel-fuel cars imported into the United States. The software allegedly allowed them to cheat emissions tests, when in reality cars were spewing up to 40 times more NOx than American regulations allow.

Maybe it’s yet another case for the electric car.