We all know that petrol and diesel fumes from cars are having a catastrophic and harmful impact on the environment and contributing to climate change that is at real risk of becoming irreversible.
But what about the impact of petrol and diesel on our health? Will the shift towards electric vehicles have a positive affect on our health.
The Electric Car Market is Growing Fast
Statistics show that the growth of the electric vehicle market is incredibly fast. Registrations of electric and hybrid vehicles are on the side and all our electric battery vehicles more than doubled in the first half of 2020 compared with the first half of 2019.
So we are beginning to see a shift towards less harmful vehicles. But make no mistake. Electric cars still make up a really small minority of all the cars on the road and any likely positive affect on our health will be dependants upon this segment growing.
The Health Impact of Petrol Fumes
Air quality in major cities is often incredibly poor. Petrol and diesel cars cause pollution in the air in the form of CO2 (carbon dioxide) but also carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.
And while air pollutants are falling, the levels in major cities are still very high.
Here are some of the health problems caused by air pollution related to burning fuel in vehicles:
- Carbon monoxide in large quantities is fatal. However, in the types of quantities we get in the air even in major cities, it won’t be fatal. It, will, however, irritate asthmatics and can make heart problems worse
- Nitrogen dioxides are thought to be primarily caused by diesel cars and vans. Studies have previously linked exposure to nitrogen dioxides in the air with lower life expectancy. Nitrogen dioxide can cause irritation of the airways leading to coughs and shortness of breath. And they can also impact lung development in children.
- Particulate matter (PM) is a term that we use to describe a real mixture of liquid and solid particles of different sizes and made up of different things. Some particles are emitted from vehicles and in some cases have been associated with respiratory diseases and even cancers.
The UK government estimates that, in the United Kingdom alone, long term exposure to man made air pollution contributes to up to 36,000 deaths every single year.
That’s a huge number and really is an alarming statistic.
Now, not all pollution stems from vehicles of course. There’s also air pollution from factories and other sources.
But cars, vans and trucks are a huge part of the low air quality problem that we need to address.
Are electric cars the answer to these problems?
Electric cars are a very solid start to cleaning up the air and improving its quality in our towns and cities. And evidence does very much point to the fact that getting petrol and diesel vehicles off our roads could lead to improved respiratory health for everyone.