The Dieselgate and air pollution in Europe

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This investigation presents the findings of multiple studies and analyses focusing on the impact of diesel car emissions on premature deaths and air pollution in Europe. It reveals that approximately 10,000 people die prematurely each year due to diesel car emissions exceeding legal limits. The study compares death rates in different European countries: Italy, Germany, France, and the UK are the most affected.

The investigation emphasizes transportation as the largest source of air pollution, contributing to 425,000 premature deaths in Europe in 2015. Additionally, it discusses the social costs of road transport pollution and the challenges faced by specific countries in addressing the Dieselgate scandal and adopting renewable energy sources. Urgent policy actions are needed to reduce air pollution and improve public health.

Main findings:

  • Approximately 10,000 people die prematurely in Europe each year due to diesel car emissions surpassing legal limits.
  • Italy, Germany, France, and the UK have the highest death toll, accounting for 70% of all premature deaths from diesel emissions.
  • Stricter adherence to EU emission limits could have prevented around 5,000 deaths, and even more lives could have been saved if diesel cars emitted as much NOx as petrol cars.
  • Transportation is the largest source of air pollution, responsible for about 425,000 premature deaths in the 41 European countries in 2015, with NOx gas playing a key role.
  • Over 130 million inhabitants in 432 major European cities face social costs of over €166 billion annually due to road transport pollution, primarily from health impacts. Road transport pollution costs each city, on average, €385 million in annual damage, with larger cities experiencing higher costs.
  • The European Environment Agency indicates that air quality is improving in Europe, but many regions still exceed WHO air quality guidelines.
  • European countries handled the Dieselgate scandal at different paces, with some countries more successful in convincing consumers to have the illegal defeat device removed.
  • Diesel-fueled cars continue to dominate in Europe, despite declining sales after the Dieselgate scandal, but hybrids and electric cars are seeing increased demand.


The data unit

Stefano Valentino (Voxeurop, MobileReporter, coordinator) is an Italian journalist and entrepreneur. He is the founder of MobileReporter, a collaborative journalism platform focused on sustainability and the environment, and he is responsible for investigations at Voxeurop.

EDJNet members which took part in this investigation: