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Diesel car owners await possible scrappage scheme

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed

20th April 2017 – Owners of some diesel cars in the most heavily polluted towns and cities in the UK may be paid to trade in their vehicles to comply with government air quality regulations.

Once promoted as a cleaner energy alternative, it is now clear that the tide of opinion is running against diesel cars. So much so, that a scrappage scheme is expected to be announced by the government shortly to get the most heavily polluting diesel vehicles off the roads.

What's so bad about diesel?

Diesel fumes contribute towards air pollution, a risk to health, particularly to the body's cardiovascular system.

Diesel engines produce 15% less CO2 than petrol – a figure that's disputed by some green campaigners who say that diesel engines are, on average, bigger than petrol engines.

Nevertheless, car buyers have in the past been encouraged to opt for diesel vehicles.

Almost 1 in every 2 new cars registered in the UK is a diesel, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), with buyers valuing their high performance and low fuel consumption.

However, diesel engines emit more nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and more particulates – the tiny particles that can penetrate lungs, brain and heart.

Why is the tide going against diesel?

Diesel cars were once a sound financial choice for motorway drivers. But things really started to change with the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

This involved the German carmaker admitting to misleading exhaust emission testing.

This led to concerns about the impact of NO2 levels from diesel vehicle exhausts.

Policy makers and health experts are becoming increasingly alarmed about the effect on health in built-up areas, largely caused by diesel fumes.

In 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – part of the World Health Organisation – reclassified diesel exhaust as a 'definite cause of cancer'.

Bans, charges and scrappage

Earlier this month, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced that from 2019, polluting cars will be charged up to £24 a day to drive in central London.

The Mayors of other international capitals are also considering similar schemes

In London, the charges are heavily skewed to penalise older diesel engines.

Diesel cars that are more than 4 years old and petrol cars that are more than 13 years old will be subject to these charges 24 hours a day in the existing congestion charge zone.

Now, the government is understood to be poised to introduce a scrappage scheme. Some owners of the oldest, most polluting diesel vehicles could be offered a cash incentive to trade in for a less polluting alternative.

Some estimates have suggested there could be £2,000 on the table for some owners.

What do health campaigners say?

There is widespread support among health campaigners to reduce air pollution levels generally.

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