EU, not Berlin, to protect Germany from diesel exhaust

Demo gegen Luftverschmutzung in Brüssel
Only German politicians and carmakers disagree. Source: DPA

The monkey story won’t have helped.

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks traveled to Brussels on Tuesday to ask the EU Commission for more time to reduce pollution levels just as VW and Daimler are reeling from reports about them sponsoring tests that exposed monkeys and humans to toxic diesel fumes. The problem, apart from the ethical issues of forcing living beings to inhale toxic fumes, is that people across Germany and much of Europe are forced, every day, to take part in experiments on the deleterious effects of air pollution.

EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella gave ministers from Germany, France, the UK and six other polluting member states until the end of next week to come up with solutions to air pollution that the European Environment Agency says causes more than 400,000 premature deaths per year. “In the face of such outstanding failures to take serious action and in view that the ongoing legal process will continue, I urge all member states to address this life threatening problem with the urgency it deserves,” Mr. Vella told a press conference.

Measurements last year showed 57 percent of air testing stations in German cities recorded nitrogen dioxide levels exceeding the EU’s limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter. Diesel engines are the main source of this gas, which is harmful to human health and the environment. Still, nitrogen dioxide levels in all affected cities fell last year, albeit only slightly. The number of cities exceeding the EU’s limit also fell to 70 last year from 90, she said.

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