Skip to main content

You are here

Diesel cars are damaging our lungs

The increase in diesel cars on the road is devastating for our lung health.  

Diesel emissions are a serious risk to lung health

For more than a decade, motorists were encouraged to buy diesel cars. You may have been one of them, along with your friends, family and colleagues.

These cars had cheaper taxes, and for years, the fact that they produce less carbon dioxide made them seem environmentally friendly. Win-win, or so we all thought…

We now know that diesel cars give off high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (small particles suspended in the air including dust, dirt, soot and smoke) that can lead to lung disease. Each year, 29,000 deaths in the UK are caused from particulate matter alone.

The number of diesel cars on our roads has  risen from 7.4% to 36.2% between 1994 and 2014. There are now nearly 11 million diesel cars  in the UK. That’s over half of new car purchases.

Tricked by diesel

At the end of 2015, we asked nearly 1,000 people to fill out a survey. Half of all the diesel drivers who took part said they felt ‘tricked’ into choosing diesel as the ‘healthier option.’

More than 80% of diesel car drivers asked are now worried about the impact on their health.

And if the health effects of diesel aren’t enough, we’re now realising that we could be completely misinformed about the emissions these cars make. The Volkswagen affair at the end of last year revealed how inaccurate emissions readings can be.

Independent reports have shown that when researchers measured a car’s emissions in a lab, the results were much lower than they would have been if it was being driven in real world conditions.

For some cars, the everyday emissions were a whopping ten times higher than the results in the lab!

In spite of this, if you go and buy a car today you will still only be told about the carbon dioxide it emits. There is unlikely to be any information about the other dangerous pollutants you could be exposed to.

What is the government doing about it?

The government is investigating how widespread the misreporting of emissions has been. It says it is committed to bringing in real-world drive testing in the UK.

But things are happening far too slowly. Last week, the EU parliament passed a vote which means new diesel cars will still be allowed to produce double the safe level of emissions until 2020.

This is simply not good enough.

The risk from diesel emissions is real. It is happening every day, down every street, trapped in every car, through the air we all breathe. The government needs to make people more aware of what diesel cars can do to their lungs.

These changes need to happen urgently.

We need to take action

So what can you do? Join our air pollution campaign.

Join the campaign

We’re calling on the government to bring in real-world, independent testing for all diesel cars in the UK as soon as possible.

We also think the government needs to work on helping the public understand the risks of air pollution. And owners of diesel cars need to know how to protect their lungs.

Sign up to our action plan today and we will let you know how you can help us fight to clean up the air we breathe.


I agree that diesel cars and lorries are damaging our lungs, but also the rise of the wood burner stoves is something that should be investigated.   I have one near me and find the fumes and smell given off is distressing.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
16 February 2016