THE MOST HARMFUL EXHAUST GASES FROM CARS ARE FINE DUST AND NITROGEN OXIDES
Symptoms of the disease range from coughing to cardiovascular disease. The VW scandal brought car exhaust into the public eye, particularly because it could be responsible for serious diseases, including lung cancer. VW was especially interested in nitrogen oxides, which are harmful to the lungs. In Germany, researchers reported in the journal “Nature” that there are about 7,000 deaths per year caused by road traffic exhaust. According to the report, twice as many people die in Germany from nitrogen oxide as from traffic accidents.
AN OVERVIEW OF HARMFUL POLLUTANTS
STICKOXYDES (NOx): Harmful nitrogen oxides such as nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide occur in nature only in minute quantities. They come mainly from cars, but also from coal, oil and gas power plants. Diesel engines emit much more NOx than gasoline engines.
These substances can attack the mucous membranes and thus cause coughing, breathing difficulties and eye irritation. Asthmatics are particularly at risk. However, they can also affect the heart and circulation. Nitrogen oxides also contribute to the formation of particulate matter and ground-level ozone.
Of the NOx, only nitrous oxide (nitrous oxide / N2O) is significant for the greenhouse effect. It is not harmful to health in the present concentrations. Laughing gas comes mainly from fields that contain a lot of artificial nitrogen fertilizer. The most important NOx at this time is nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
NO2 LIMITED AIR: “Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which comes primarily from motor vehicle exhaust, is becoming the leading pollutant,” the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) wrote. According to the report, in 2014, NO2 concentrations at more than half of the measuring stations located on busy roads exceeded the annual average limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter. Authorities will then have to ensure that NO2 is reduced through air pollution control plans. In addition, the European Commission can initiate infringement proceedings, which can lead to fines. According to the UBA, such a procedure is currently underway against Germany for exceeding the annual limit value. Citizens can also take legal action against the authorities for compliance with the limit values.
NOx limit values for cars: The limit value in car exhaust for all nitrogen oxides is 80 milligrams per kilometer (mg/km) for diesel engines and 60 mg/km for gasoline engines in the EU. The average value required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the equivalent of 43.5 mg/km. However, U.S. control systems are not uniform and regulations may vary from state to state.
Ozone (O3): NOx forms ozone in sunlight along with organic substances and oxygen. Ozone irritates mucous membranes, eyes and lungs. It can cause respiratory problems. As with NO2, asthmatics are particularly at risk, as are workers and outdoor sportsmen with their high turnover of substances.
O3 limited air: if the concentration of ozone reaches 180 micrograms or more per cubic meter of air during one hour, state authorities must inform the population and tell them what to do, for example through radio stations. For example, people who are sensitive to ozone should avoid strenuous outdoor activities. From the alarm threshold of 240 micrograms per cubic meter, this applies to the entire population.
Fine dust: These tiny particles are produced either directly in car engines, power plants, industry or by smoking cigarettes, or indirectly through nitrogen oxides and other gases. Fine particles enter the lungs and even the bloodstream. They can cause inflammation of the airways, but also thrombosis and heart problems.
CARBON DIOXIDE (CO2): Although harmless to humans, it is also the most important greenhouse gas and is responsible for 76% of man-made global warming. According to UBA data, road traffic is responsible for about 17% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Germany, with carbon dioxide playing by far the most important role