The exhaust from a diesel engine is a mixture of many substances, including particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide (NO-X). Both are particularly harmful to peoples’ respiratory tracts. Question is: How are harmful doses measured, and how are respectable limits gained? Particulate matter currently may not exceed 50 micrograms per cubic meter on streets; the threshold in the case of nitrogen dioxide is even lower at 40 micrograms per cubic meter. Professor Annette Peters, Director at the Helmholtz Center in Munich, was one of those who determined these values many years ago. Today she says: “That was the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation, which was thought to protect people effectively. It was based on the evaluation of health statistics.” How was the result arrived at? The WHO compared rates of disease and death of urban and rural residents. The lower life expectancy in cities was largely grounded in the presence of NOx, which was a controversial assumption from the start.
Nevertheless, these alleged NOx victims became the strongest argument against the diesel engine. Even now the Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Environmental Action Germany) states that 800,000 people per annum fall ill due to NOx and 13,000 would die from it every year. They sued municipalities in Germany by the dozen. Now more and more cities are issuing driving bans following court rulings. The WHO, by the way, had specifically warned against the equating reference point and threshold value in 2000, the year they published the reference value of 40 micrograms per cubic meter in their guidelines on air quality in Europe.
“The ultimate in dumbing down”
It’s clear to Professor Martin Hetzel, Medical Director at the Red Cross Hospital in Stuttgart, one of the leading lung clinics in the country that “particulate matter alerts are the ultimate in dumbing down, because an alert is a sign of a significant, acute emergency. That is not the case given the particulate matter presence in Stuttgart.” Hetzel knows many patients from his own perspective. That’s another reason the statistical comparisons the WHO based their conclusions on have nothing to do with reality: “There is no such thing as a particulate matter disease of the lung or heart,” he said in the ARD report. “Not a single death can be traced back to particulates or nitrogen dioxide. Those are constructed mathematical models. It just isn’t plausible that these small concentrations of particulates and nitrogen dioxide cause deaths in the manner that is currently being discussed.” Dr. Wolfgang Straff from the German Environment Agency conceded to ARD as well: “There are really no NO-X deaths. It isn’t anything that can be scientifically observed. We can’t break down an illness to one cause.”