Airborne particulate matter can really do a number on us humans, particularly with regard to our cardiovascular systems. It seems reasonable for air pollution, then, to be a major concern when calculating the environmental and health costs of the way we do business. Diesel-powered transport has come under particularly scrutiny and particulate matter from diesel exhaust has been widely blamed for diseases such as lung cancer in humans. Perhaps, though, commercial diesel has gotten too tough of a rap, as a new paper from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (which includes nations outside of Europe, including the US) suggests.

Titled Diesel Engines Exhausts: Myths and Realities, the UN paper finds that most particulate matter emissions in Europe (83 percent), as well as in the US and Canada (97 percent), come not from diesel transport, but from other economic sectors. This is not to say that the UNECE suggests that reducing harmful emissions from diesel engines shouldn't be a priority. It calls for being more aggressive and targeted in that respect, but points out a need for increased focus on the worst offenders, the largest of those being "the commercial, institutional and household sector." It also notes the economic importance of diesel engines, stating that "it is not feasible to replace and eliminate them at this stage."

"There is no better example than diesel as a technology and as an industry that has undergone a complete transformation in so little time" – Allen Schaeffer

The UNECE also looks to set the record straight about diesel technology, even using it as an illustration of what has been done correctly. The paper affirms the reduction of air pollutants from cleaner diesel tech. Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum Allen Schaeffer extrapolates upon this notion: "There is no better example than diesel as a technology and as an industry that has undergone a complete transformation in so little time that is enhancing our environment and quality of life around the globe." Schaeffer sees diesel technology and global emissions standards as particularly important for developing countries.

For the time being, diesel is here to stay, and as long as it is, we can expect there to be problems associated with it. For the UNECE and folks like Allen Schaeffer, that news isn't as bad as some have thought, particularly with more dangerous options available. And as long as we're working toward a healthier planet, the occasional reality check can help us prioritize our efforts to make the largest positive impact. Read on for more from the Diesel Technology Forum in the press release below.
Show full PR text
New United Nations Paper Finds Role of Diesel In Economic Development Large . . . And Contribution of Road Vehicles to Particulate Matter To Be Small & Declining in Europe & U.S.

Washington, D.C. – A new paper issued by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) concluded that diesel road vehicles were the cause of only a small percentage of particulate matter – PM 2.5 and PM10 - in Europe and the United States compared to economic sectors like the commercial, institutional and household sectors.

"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 concluded in the new paper entitled "Diesel Engine Exhausts: Myths and Realities".

To read the entire UNECE paper go to: http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trans/main/wp5/publications/Diesel_Engines_Exhausts_Myths_and_Realities_2014.pdf

"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 UNECE paper stated. (Page 41, 121)

UNECE Includes 56 Nations in Europe & North America

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. UNECE's (http://www.unece.org/#) major aim is to promote pan-European economic integration. To do so, it brings together 56 countries located in the European Union, non-EU Western and Eastern Europe, South-East Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and North America.

The UNECE paper also states:

- "The transport sector is by far not the most significant source of PM emissions, nonetheless up till now it has been the most rigorous in introducing measures to address the issue." (Page 42, 125e)

- "Thus to improve the quality of air around us more attention must be given to the primary PM emitters." (Page 42, 123)

- "Diesel engines are currently at the heart of economic growth and off all economic activity and, therefore, it is not feasible to replace and eliminate them at this stage." (Page 42, 125b)

UNECE Paper Highlights Diesel's Importance to Global Economy & Corrects Misconceptions About Diesel

"Diesel engines are the workhorse of the global economy, contributing to improved quality of life, food production, mobility and public safety," said Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum (http://www.dieselforum.org/). "This UNECE paper highlights the positive trends in reducing emissions from new clean diesel technology as well as the misperceptions about the overall role of diesel engines in air pollution.

"The development of new clean diesel technology for passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, construction and farm engines have reduced particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 90 percent in the past two decades. There is no better example than diesel as a technology and as an industry that has undergone a complete transformation in so little time that is enhancing our environment and quality of life around the globe.

"The UNECE paper provides an important perspective often overlooked in the environmental debate - that diesel vehicle engines have dramatically improved their emissions and are not a significant cause of PM emissions in developed countries. It also highlights the importance of diesel technology for developing countries and how to improve air quality through harmonized global fuel and emissions standards," Schaeffer said.

Second Study Finds "Cars & trucks, particularly diesel vehicles, are thought to be the main vehicular pollution sources. This needs re-thinking . . ."

The new UNECE report has similar findings to a separate study published in the journal Nature Communications on May 13, 2014 entitled "Two-stroke scooters are a dominant source of air pollution in many cities". This second report was supported by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO), the Swiss National Science Foundation, the EU commission, the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the French Environment and Energy Management Agency.

The study found that in many Asian and European communities: "Cars and trucks, particularly diesel vehicles, are thought to be the main vehicular pollution sources. This needs re-thinking, as we show that elevated particulate matter levels can be a consequence of 'asymmetric pollution' from two-stroke scooters, vehicles that constitute a small fraction of the fleet, but can dominate urban vehicular pollution through organic aerosol and aromatic emission factors up to thousands of times higher than from other vehicle classes."

To see a summary of the Nature Communications study go to:

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140513/ncomms4749/full/ncomms4749.html


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