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WHO Recommends Limits for Air Pollution Guidelines to Be Tightened to Combat Health Threats

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has not had an air quality guideline global update since 2005. Last month, after 16 years, the health body finally set new air pollution guidelines and reduced recommended limits. Intended to address the increasing number of health problems and premature deaths due to toxic air, the update focuses on limits for dangerous pollutants nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine tiny particles called PM2.5.

The update has recommendations for air quality limits of six pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide, and particulate matters PM2 and PM10.

While everyone has the right to enjoy clean air, this has been quite challenging to achieve because pollutants are everywhere. Air pollution is now at par with unhealthy eating and smoking as a global health problem.

Additionally, the adverse effects of polluted air on human health have increased over the years. But with the new guidelines in place, hopes are high that things will slowly change for the better.

UK legal action

In the UK, environmental groups and campaigners are encouraged by the WHO’s latest action and urged the government to also slash the legal limits of nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5 emissions in the country. The UK’s current regulated limit is at least four times over the World Health Organization’s recommendations. This means people have been exposed to constantly high amounts of toxic air for years.

According to the WHO, around seven million people die annually because of air pollution. Additionally, a recent study revealed that over eight million deaths worldwide in 2018 were caused by exposure to toxic air.

What toxic air can do to you

NOx or nitrogen oxides gases contain nitric acid (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and is one of the dangerous pollutants recognised by the World Health Organization. NOx is responsible for the formation of acid rain and smog, as well as for producing ground-level ozone and particulate matter (PM). All these have adverse effects on human health.

A person exposed to low NOx levels may suffer from throat, nose, and eye irritation. Lung issues that can lead to shortness of breath and coughing may also develop. In some cases, fluid can build up in the lungs for a couple of days.

Other issues and health problems that people exposed to nitrogen oxides include:

  • Respiratory issues
  • Asthma and aggravated asthma
  • Reduced lung function
  • Corroded teeth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and tiredness

If a person is exposed to higher NOx levels, the effects include fluid buildup in the lungs, reduced tissue oxygenation, and issues in the upper respiratory tract and throat.

In severe cases where long-term exposure is involved, high levels of NOx can lead to chronic lung disease, possible lung damage, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and may even cause premature death.

NOx exposure is also said to trigger anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Air pollution is an environmental and health threat of a major magnitude. It is a problem that has to be addressed with viable solutions, mostly focusing on vehicles, which is the main source of nitrogen oxides emissions. This is the reason why the diesel emission scandal made  the headlines in 2015.

The Dieselgate scandal

The Dieselgate scandal, or the diesel emission scandal started when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleged that German manufacturer Volkswagen used defeat devices in their vehicles sold to car owners in the country.

Defeat devices are software installed in vehicles to cheat on emissions tests. The software detects when a test is about to be done and they automatically bring down emissions to legal levels. Thus, it cheats because it does not show the real volumes of NOx released to the air. When driven in real-world conditions, the vehicles emit NOx in astounding levels, way above the legal limit set by the WHO.

Initially, only Volkswagen was implicated in the emissions scandal, but after several months, other manufacturers were handed violation notices as well. The Mercedes Benz emissions scandal followed after VW, and fines and class-action were soon filed against more manufacturers as well, including Renault, BMW, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Vauxhall, Nissan, Ford, Citroën, Peugeot, Suzuki, and Fiat.

What the emissions scandal contributes to the current air quality is more pollution. As such, aside from paying fines and compensation claims, manufacturers are also required to recall affected vehicles so these could be upgraded with environmentally safe software or engines.

With the new guidelines from the WHO, environmental groups and campaigners are hoping that manufacturers will employ safer alternatives for their diesel vehicles. Additionally, the government is expected to impose stricter rules and penalties on erring automakers.

How you can help

You can help the UK government in its campaign to reduce NOx emissions by ensuring your vehicle does not have a cheat device. However, if it has been fitted with one, you should get in touch with your manufacturer right away and request for a recall.

You also have the right to claim for compensation. For example, if your vehicle is a Mercedes-Benz, you can file for a Mercedes diesel compensation claim with the help of a team of emissions compensation experts. This team will help you get the compensation you deserve from Mercedes.

Choose an experienced and dedicated team such as the ones at Emissions.co.uk, with the primary goal of helping you win your claim.

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