Diesel Is On The Rise, And So Are The Health Risks

Diesel powered vehicles are hitting Australian roads at a rate more than double their petrol counterparts, but while more drivers may be seeing a reduction in fuel costs, medical experts are warning that health concerns surrounding the fuel will lead to significant health costs.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) annual snapshot of all vehicles registered for use on Australian roads shows that the total number of vehicles fuelled by diesel increased by 293,217, in comparison to 114,337 petrol powered vehicles added to the Motor Vehicle Register since 2015.

“The 2016 Motor Vehicle Census tells us there are over 18 million registered motor vehicles in Australia in 2016, which is an increase of 2.1 per cent since last year. This includes over 16 million cars and light commercial vehicles,” said Amanda Clark, ABS Director of Transport and Tourism.

Oxides of nitrogen (and many other chemicals in exhaust fumes) and particulate matter are being increasingly implicated in heart, respiratory and lung disease as well as some forms of cancer, according to Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) — a not-for-profit group of medical doctors raising awareness of the link between damage to the environment and health.

DEA also points out that the increase in diesel vehicles means that greenhouse gas emissions are increasing in spite of improvements in engine performance standards.

In November this year, all new passenger vehicles will be required to conform to Euro 5 emission standards. While these are a vast improvement on the current Euro 4 standards, especially by reducing particulate matter for diesel engines by 90 per cent, in most of the developed world even more strict Euro 6 standards have been in place for over 2 years.

The Euro 5 diesel standard allows for 225 per cent more oxides of nitrogen than Euro 6, so we will still be well short of our overseas counterparts in the control of polluting and toxic oxides which contribute to photochemical smog, DEA wars. Petrol engines at Euro 5 standard emit one third the oxides of nitrogen than do diesel engines.

“Unless Australia moves rapidly to Euro 6 standards, we should start to phase out diesel-fuelled vehicles especially as passenger vehicles and move to electric vehicles,” DEA says. “If we don’t, Victorian and other Australians will be breathing in more pollution than our counterparts in the UK, Paris and so on.”