Intended for healthcare professionals


Switch to diesel engines is significantly to blame for poor air quality in UK cities, experts say

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 30 April 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3033
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

Government policies to encourage motorists to switch to diesel engines may have backfired, experts have said, as diesel fumes are now being blamed for the poor air quality in UK cities that is damaging health and reducing life expectancy.

Successive governments have encouraged a switch to diesel powered transport in a bid to tackle climate change because diesel vehicles are more fuel efficient and emit less carbon dioxide than those powered by petrol. Drivers have been keen to make the switch because diesel vehicles are more economical to run, and more than half of new cars are now diesel.

However, diesel engines produce tiny particulate matter, which is an important contributor to poor air quality in UK cities. As well as exacerbating conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, particulate matter is estimated to be responsible for 29 000 deaths each year in the United Kingdom and …

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