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UNESCO Report: On-Highway Diesels Not A Major PM Contributor?

Posted on May 29, 2014

Adding another log to the emissions debate fire, especially the discussion over exactly how much and what role diesel-powered vehicles and machines play in the emissions of particulate matter, a paper, “Diesel Engine Exhausts: Myths and Realities” has recently been released by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

One of the key conclusions of the paper is that only a small percentage of particulate matter – PM 2.5 and PM10 - in Europe and the United States is generated by diesel engines in comparison to emissions from commercial, institutional, and household uses.   “From the data and facts mentioned above, we conclude with a high degree of reliability that it is misleading to claim that people’s exposure to diesel engines of road motor vehicles is the cause of increased risk of lung cancer,” UNECO said.

Supporting that statement, UNESCO said:  “Eighty three percent of particulate matters emissions in European Union countries (EEA, 2012a) and 97 percent in the United States of America (EPA 2013) and Canada is generated by other economic sectors, mainly the commercial, institutional and household sector. Therefore, the claim that emissions from diesel engine exhausts from road transport are the main cause of lung cancer in humans needs to be seriously challenged. It does not mean however, that measures to improve the environmental performance of the transport sector can stop.  On the contrary, they must continue and in an aggressively well targeted way.”

The full paper can be found at:  http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trans/main/wp5/publications/Diesel_Engines_Exhausts_Myths_and_Realities_2014.pdf

Other notable comments from the UNESCO paper include the following.

• The commercial, institutional and household sector emerged as the most important source of PM2.5 and PM10, with 52 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively.

• Still diesel driven road vehicles came to the centre of attention to the extent that they have become “demonised”.

• Between 1990 and 2010, emissions from the road transport and nonā€road transport sectors have been significantly reduced, contributing to a 43 per cent reduction in P.M 2.5 and 29 per cent reduction in P.M10 emissions.

• We conclude with a high degree of reliability that it is misleading to claim that people’s exposure to diesel engines of road motor vehicles is the cause of increased risk of lung cancer. Eighty three per cent of particulate matters emissions in European Union countries (EEA, 2012a) and 97 per cent in the United States of America (EPA 2013) and Canada, is generated by other economic sectors, mainly the commercial, institutional and household sector. Therefore, the claim that emissions from diesel engine exhausts from road transport are the main cause of lung cancer in humans needs to be seriously challenged.

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