“We are raising a generation of children with stunted lung capacity,” an expert stressed.
Those of us who are exposed to high levels of air pollution daily in congested urban areas know the symptoms well: frequent bouts of fatigue and dizziness, persistent irritation in the throat, recurrent coughs. Yet once we move from areas of toxic air, these symptoms tend to ease up and then cease altogether. We’re none the worse for being exposed to bad air for long periods in the past.
Or so it may appear. Often, however, long-term exposure to high levels of airborne pollutants leaves its marks permanently on our bodies. This especially applies to young children, whose bodies are still developing.
Pollutants emitted by diesel vehicles are causing the lungs of children to get stunted permanently, according to the findings of a major study conducted by British researchers on 2,000 children in London. The youngsters may end up with poor lung capacity for life. Many of them could also develop respiratory diseases and symptoms associated with asthma as a result of exposure to diesel fumes.
“Traffic pollution harms children’s health, particularly [their] development of lungs,” stressed Chris Griffiths, professor of primary care at Queen Mary University in London, who co-led the research. “We are raising a generation of children with stunted lung capacity.”
And London is hardly alone in its perennial bad air. “Air quality in London is bad, but it is similarly bad in other UK cities and cities across Europe, and of course in India and China it is notoriously bad,” the researcher noted.
Just as disconcertingly, the researchers found no evidence that Low Emission Zones, which were set up in 2008 around London to try and limit pollutants released by vehicles, “did not reduce ambient air pollution levels, or affect the prevalence of respiratory/allergic symptoms over the period studied.” High levels of nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxide from diesel emissions were still found to be present in these zones.
Griffiths said policymakers and automakers were both to blame for the large amounts of pollutants released by diesel vehicles. “This reflects a car industry that has deceived the consumer and central government, which continues to fail to act decisively to ensure towns and cities cut traffic,” he said. “The public very much wants better air quality, and they are right.”
Recently experts at the U.S.’s Environmental Protection Agency found that the prominent German automaker Volkswagen Group, which manufactures a plethora of famed car brands from Porsche and Audi to Bentley and Bugatti, sought to deceive regulators by programming turbocharged direct injection (TDI) engines in some 11 million of its diesel-fueled vehicles worldwide in a way that their emissions controls are activated only during laboratory emissions tests.
This trick allowed half a million diesel vehicles manufactured by the company and sold in the U.S. to pass local low-emission requirements during regulatory testing between 2009 and 2015. Yet the vehicles continued to emit up to 40 times more nitrogen oxides in real-world driving. Following the scandal, Audi’s CEO Rupert Stadler was arrested in Germany and remains in custody.