British Doctors Beg Prime Minister to Phase Out Diesel ASAP

"Time is running out" to save a generation of children from long-term harm due to diesel emissions, hundreds of doctors wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May. 

AP Photo/Matt Dunham

A group of nearly 300 health professionals in Great Britain are beseeching Prime Minister Theresa May to begin working to ban all diesel-powered vehicles from the nation's roads as soon as possible in order to save today's children from suffering long-term harm due to the engines' emissions. 

The group, known as Doctors Against Diesel, sent an open letter to the U.K. PM on Tuesday begging May to follow the advice of Dr. Sally Davies, English government's chief medical officer, and phase out oil-burning cars due to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the soot and nitrogen oxide emissions of diesel engine is responsible for a wide variety of chronic health problems. 

"A national diesel reduction initiative, led by government, will represent a major public health advance," the group wrote in the letter. "However, time is running out, without urgent action emissions from diesel vehicles will cause irreversible lung damage to the current generation of children."

Studies have shown that diesel-powered cars will have to be reduced from 57 percent of the automobiles on London's streets to 5 percent in order to bring the city's air quality down to legal NOx limits, according to Doctors Against Diesel. 

“NOx emissions breached legal limits in London in the first week of January, and recent figures show that sales of diesel cars have reached an all-time high," Professor John Middleton, President of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said in an accompanying statement.  "Diesel is the primary source of nitrogen dioxide in urban areas and is linked to health effects that begin before birth and extend throughout the life course, from childhood lung development and asthma, to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and dementia.  It is time for diesel to be recognised as the health emergency that it is.”

Unlike the United States, diesel-powered passenger vehicles are big business in Great Britain, due to factors like better fuel economy and a European focus on reducing carbon dioxide over other emissions. 1.29 million diesel cars were registered in the U.K. in 2016, according to The Belfast Telegraph, accounting for 47.7 percent of new automobiles in the country.