Facts about Nitrogen Dioxide Pollution from Diesel engines in the UK

You may have heard about the UK Government’s recently published proposals for tackling NO2 pollution from diesel engines.

There’s a lot of conflicting information around about how NO2 pollution impacts health, the ongoing problem with air quality in the UK, and the Governments plans.

The ‘Toxin Tax’: At a Glance

The UK government has been ordered by the UK courts (twice) and the European Commission (EC) to reduce Nitrogen Dioxide (NO₂) levels in the air. 

  • The EC has sent a final warning to UK for repeated breaches of legal air pollution limits in 16 areas.
  • In 2016, 4 in 10 local authorities breached legal NO₂ levels. 
  • High levels of NO₂ are attributable to 23,500 premature deaths in the UK each year
  • NO₂ is known to cause (or exacerbate) respiratory diseases including asthma and bronchitis
  • Diesel engines are the primary source of NO₂ pollution – producing four times more NO₂ than petrol engines
  • Particles from diesel engines have also been linked to heart disease and strokes
  • 39% of cars on the road in the UK run on diesel

The UK government is set to introduce ‘clean air zones’ and ‘toxin taxes’ for diesel cars in major cities from 2019

These charges could affect up to 10 million diesel cars in the UK

When combined with congestion charge, this could make the cost of driving a diesel car in central London £24 per day

A scrappage scheme may see diesel car owners offered up to £2,000 to switch to other fuel sources

Why Are Diesel Cars Under Scrutiny?

The UK has a big problem with air pollution.

In February of this year, the European Commission delivered a ‘final warning’ to the UK government over its failure to comply with EU air pollution limits for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO₂).

16 areas of the UK – including major cities such as London, Glasgow, and Cardiff – were found to have been repeatedly breaching legal limits.

Here is an infographic explaining in further detail.

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