Report: Volkswagen responsible for Dutch emissions miss, shorter lifespans

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Tampering with diesel vehicles' emissions, such as was done in the so-called Volkswagen diesel scandal, is the reason that the Netherlands is not meeting the European standards for air quality. It is also responsible for the shorter life-spans of people living near busy motorways.

This is according to calculations done by action group Milieudefensie based on figures from the Dutch national institute for health and the environment RIVM, the Volkskrant reported on Tuesday.

A recent field test done by institute TNO showed that almost all diesel cars emit more nitrogen dioxides than the manufacturers indicate. Many of these vehicles even emit five to six times more than indicated. This has resulted in the total amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air being much larger due to higher emissions than expected.

If the manufacturers complied to the European emissions regulations, the Netherlands would have exceeded the nitrogen dioxide concentration limit according to European air quality standards in only one location, Joost Wesseling of RIVM said to the newspaper. As it is, the concentration exceeds the limit in about 130 locations.

A study done by the RIVM in 2013 estimated that the total nitrogen dioxide emissions from road traffic would be approximately 50 million kilograms for 2015. The actual emissions now appear to be about 74 million kilograms.

This has many negative health effects on Dutch residents, especially those living near busy roads. "These people live an average of 2.5 months shorter due to the carmakers tampering with emissions standards", Anne Knol of Miliuedefensie said.

Bart Somers, a researcher in fuel engine technology at Technical University Eindhoven, told the newspaper that he doubts that the air quality around busy intersections would be much better if the diesel cars did meet the standards. "I can imagine that prolonged congestion has a huge impact on the amount of nitrogen oxides per kilometer per vehicle." he said. He wonders what contribution very old diesel cars make to the amount of nitrogen dioxides in the air. According to him, there are still many old diesel vehicles on the road, and their emissions are much higher that that of modern vehicles, even if the emissions have been tampered with.

The best way to reduce the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the air would be to ban all diesel vehicles manufactured before the Euro-4 standard - before 2005, Somers believes. "But there's no chance of that, of course."