Fuelling pollution: Stricter emission norms the key to combat health burden of vehicular pollution

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Published: March 1, 2019 3:15:35 AM

The new standards promise to bring PM levels emitted by diesel cars down by 80% as also reduce nitrogen oxides by 70%.

Air pollution is a leading health risk factor, and global transportation emissions in 2010 and 2015 contributed 361,000 and 385,000 PM2.5 and ozone-attributable premature deaths respectively. (Representational photo)

The fatal effects of vehicular emissions were always known, but a first-of-its-kind worldwide assessment of health impacts of transport emissions, conducted by US-based universities and entities should make the picture clearer. Air pollution is a leading health risk factor, and global transportation emissions in 2010 and 2015 contributed 361,000 and 385,000 PM2.5 and ozone-attributable premature deaths respectively, with 70% of these deaths occurring in the four largest vehicle markets—China, India, the EU, and the US.

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There is, however, variation in trends amongst the four largest markets: From 2010 to 2015, transportation-related deaths declined by 14% and 16% in the EU and US due to improvement in emissions standards and fuel quality. But, they increased by 26% in China and India. Although stricter emission standards in countries like India have been instituted—India’s Supreme Court refused to grant any relief to vehicle-makers in conforming with the BS-VI emission norms from April 1, 2020—the effects of these changes will likely take time to manifest. The new standards promise to bring PM levels emitted by diesel cars down by 80% as also reduce nitrogen oxides by 70%. Improvements in similar emission standard regulation has led to the global health risk from the transportation sector stabilising between 2010 and 2015 (11.7% of global PM2.5 and ozone mortality in 2010 and 11.4% in 2015), but further action needs to be undertaken, like improving access to public transportation, in order for emission-related transport deaths to reduce in the future.

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