ERS calls on German Parliament to reject report on diesel pollution

29 June, 2017

The ERS Environment and Health Committee, together with the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), the European Council of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE), as well as the German Society of Hygiene, Environmental and Public Health Sciences (GHUP) are urging German Members of Parliament to vote against a report dealing with defeat devices in diesel vehicles when it is debated this Friday 30 June.

Defeat devices in diesel vehicles have been causing unduly high emission rates of nitrous oxides, which cause serious effects on public health in Germany. In a joint statement sent to the German parliamentarians, ERS calls on delegates to reject the report in its current version as the health effects have been negated, and important aspects have been omitted.

Prof Barbara Hoffmann, Chair elect of the ERS Environment and Health Committee explains: "The report loses its objectivity by negating the evidence for health effects from nitrogen dioxide, which have been reported by a large number of epidemiological studies from various countries, arriving at similar conclusions. In addition, evidence from toxicology has not been considered in the report.

"It is incomprehensible how the committee arrived at conclusions that are at odds with the expert opinion of the German federal environment agency, the World Health Organization, and further expert bodies."

Commenting on the report Julia Gogolewska, Senior Policy Officer at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), said: "The final report downplays the damage caused by defeat devices. The health effects from these undue emissions can in fact be quantified in view of the current level of scientific understanding, and the German government has to accept that its response to the revelations about defeat devices will be judged against these numbers."

The joint statement is based on the full body of scientific literature from the fields of epidemiology and toxicology, as well as recent reviews by the World Health Organization and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Both of these organisations have confirmed that the association between short-term exposure with nitrogen dioxide and increased mortality and hospital admissions, as well as higher risks of respiratory diseases such as asthma, were well documented and plausibly explained by toxicological evidence. Even concentrations well below the current legal limit for nitrogen dioxide of 40µg/m3 would be relevant. According to latest reports by the German federal environment agency, the legal limit is being exceeded at more than half of urban monitoring stations at traffic hot spots; high emissions of nitrous oxides from traffic is considered a particularly important cause. Other recent studies attribute specific numbers of premature deaths to excess nitrous oxide emissions due to defeat devices.