Fleet News

Clean air experts argue over vehicle pollution

SOME of the world’s most influential clean air experts have met to discuss the links between air quality and health. At the 13th World Clean Air and Environmental Protection Congress, transport was one of the most hotly debated subjects.

Among claims that vehicle emissions are having a detrimental impact on human health, delegates were warned about the damaging effects of air pollution.

The congress was told how diesel emissions could be leading to a public heath disaster (Fleet NewsNet, September 2) and how air pollution could have a link to heart disease as well as affecting the global climate. Here we take a look at how some of the bigger global environmental issues could have an impact on UK fleets.

Diesel emissions

FINE particles from diesel emissions are having a major impact on health, according to Professor Joel Schwartz from Harvard Medical School.

He questioned EU plans to increase the number of diesel vehicles on the road, as although diesels are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they produce more particles than petrol engines.

These very fine particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs, which experts say can trigger illnesses ranging from asthma to lung cancer.

Schwartz endorsed hybrid vehicles as a more economical alternative. He said: ‘Hybrid vehicles are better for climate change and produce much less pollution.’

Air pollution and heart disease

EVIDENCE was outlined showing how air pollution is believed to cause heart disease as well as respiratory conditions.

Professor Jon Ayres, a leading adviser to the Government, told delegates that there was a link between hospital admissions for cardiac disease and pollution.

Ayres said: ‘Heart disease is common and therefore even a small individual impact from air pollution will have a large public health effect.

‘We need to know what benefit is likely to be gained from reductions in specific air pollutants.’

Sustainable technology

CARBON-based fuels have to be replaced by a ‘hydrogen economy’. That is a view held by a growing number of experts, including one congress speaker who claims that the earth’s ecosystem is at stake because of depleting energy resources.

Won-Hoon Park from the Korean Research Council for Industrial Science and Technology claims that we are consuming energy and resources without paying attention to resource limits.

He said: ‘The new cleaner technologies will help to reduce our impact on the biosphere. In particular the energy system based on carbon has to be replaced by the hydrogen economy.’

To put the issue into perspective, a website has been created that shows how quickly we consume the world’s resources.

Even Prime Minister Tony Blair knows that there must be a move as soon as possible. He has stated publicly that Britain needs to move to a hydrogen-based economy quickly.

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