Personal Health

Driving bans did not bring relief


The applicable pollutant limits are too strict, and thus the court covered contractually imposed driving bans? Chancellor Angela Merkel had asked researchers at the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, to examine these issues independently and educate. In the published opinion States: driving bans are not suitable to reduce the pollutant load in the air in a sustainable manner. The experts call the turn instead of sustainable Transport.

In addition, the researchers criticize that the debate aims to oxides on the effects of nitrogen. The focus should be the according to scientists, but to fine dust, the health significantly more damage.

“Replacement of the entire diesel fleet, not recommended

The Leopoldina, located in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, developed in the framework of a “science-based policy advice” opinions, which also include options for the policy. In General, the impetus comes from members or committees of the Academy.

In this case, however, Merkel had personally asked to assess, after a group of lung doctors had questioned the health Benefits of the applicable limits. Federal transport Minister Andreas Scheuer had called for a Review of the limits. In the meantime, it is clear that the opinion of the lung doctors contained a crucial error.

In Germany, the mandatory EU limit value for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air, it is the basis for the court-imposed diesel driving bans. This limit, the researchers doubt in the published position paper, not per se. A aggravation don’t push “from the scientific point of view”. An exact demarcation between hazardous and non-hazardous in the sense of a threshold value is hardly possible. Overall, the air pollutant emissions in Germany are, with the exception of ammonia have been declining for years.

“The narrowing in nitrogen dioxide.”

“Nitrogen oxides can worsen the symptoms of lung diseases such as Asthma and contribute to the formation of fine particulate matter and ozone”, the researchers write. The limit value for nitrogen oxides is relatively strict, and is exceeded in Germany on a regular basis. The less stringent limit value for particulate matter is observed as well as nationwide. “The current narrowing of the debate to nitrogen dioxide is not effective”, – stated in the opinion.

The discussion of more stringent limits should instead focus on the effects of particulate matter, claim the researchers. Because fine dust is harmful to the health and could cause, among other things, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.

Of driving bans, the researchers hold, however, because such short-term and small-scale measures could not provide relief. Anyway, the road was not the only source for fine dust, but also in combustion processes in connection with energy supply and household, agriculture, industry and wood combustion. These areas are, however, regulated and are often less strict. The researchers are therefore calling for a nationwide, cross-departmental strategy on air pollution. According to the measurements in the center of Stuttgart from the year 2013, the road traffic has caused about half of the particulate pollution.

Other points of the position paper:

  • The actually occurring load by nitrogen dioxide and fine dust is internationally hardly to compare, because the installation of the measuring stations is regulated differently. Already small Changes of the sites could affect the measurement results significantly. It is crucial, for example, the height of the measuring devices are attached and how far you are away from very busy intersections. This criticism had also claimed opponents of the bans. The researchers call, therefore, is to unify the specifications of international.
  • The reduction of the nitrogen dioxide pollution should not lead to an increase in climate-damaging CO2 emissions. “A complete replacement of the diesel fleet with vehicles of the same weight class and same engine power with gasoline engines, also from a climate protection reasons it is not recommended”,- stated in the position paper. Instead, the researchers call for a sustainable shift in Transportation and the development of low-emission vehicles.
  • Especially a lot of promise to the researchers of Software Updates and Hardware retrofits for diesel vehicles. Higher petrol and diesel prices, higher taxes and duties for cars, and a simultaneous Expansion of public transport, the traffic may be significantly lower.

To the dedicated working group of the Leopoldina, 20 professors from each of the twelve fields of medicine, toxicology, biology, chemistry, epidemiology, statistics, and technology, economic, Material and legal Sciences, sociology and transport research.

Summary: The National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has published an opinion on the dispute on limits for air pollution. Chancellor Angela Merkel had asked. The researchers doubt that diesel driving bans are in effect. In addition, they criticize that so far nitrogen oxides were in the centre of the debate, for the comparatively stricter limits will apply. Concern for health was, however, fine dust, this arise not only in road transport. The researchers therefore call for a shift in Traffic and a nation-wide strategy on air pollution.