The rigging of diesel emissions by Volkswagen and other car manufacturers is a public health catastrophe “worse than the black plague” that is responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths in the UK alone.
Simon Birkett from the Clean Air in London campaign has called for a royal commission to investigate carmakers' activities in the UK.
"Everybody has been affected by diesel emissions - we know it has killed people. Even the black plague only affected a finite number of people. There’s nothing on this scale in history to my knowledge," Birkett told the Independent.
Some 50,000 people in the UK suffer premature deaths because of nitrogen oxide emitted by diesel vehicles, estimates show.
A report published by the mayor of London's office in July said up to 10,000 deaths were attributable to long-term exposure to air pollution in London in one year of a total of 50,000 deaths. Each such death is likely to have been about 12 years early.
Environmentalists have long known about the gap between lab testing of car emissions and what we observe in real world emissions. Academic studies have shown that diesel vehicles on the road emit far more than they are supposed to.
Roger Barrowcliffe, chair of the Institution of Air Quality Management said the Volkswagen scandal may be the catalyst for change. “The information has been out there for quite some time but governments and consumers have ignored it for quite some time,” Barrowcliffe said.Reuse content