Toxic particle linked to diesel kills 6,000 a year in Germany: Agency

FILE PHOTO: Protests against Germany's "Dieselgate" in front of Germany's Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure where ministers and car executives hold a meeting to agree ways to cut inner-city pollution to try to stave off bans on diesel cars and restore the tarnished reputation of the country's auto industry in Berlin, Germany, August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - Some 6,000 early deaths linked to nitrogen oxides (NOx) are recorded each year in Germany, the Federal Environmental Agency said on Thursday, providing more evidence of the health hazards posed by the toxic particles mostly produced by diesel engines.

The figure is likely to add pressure on carmakers and the government as they scramble to slow the demise of the diesel technology in which Germany’s car industry invested billions.

The Environmental Agency (UBA) also said that NOx causes one million people to fall ill each year and that levels of the toxic particle are higher in 70 cities than the limit set under air quality standards.

The car industry has relied on diesel as a stopgap technology to boost efficiency, meet CO2 emissions goals and buy time for a shift toward electric mobility.

But sales of diesel cars have been falling since Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE admitted in 2015 to cheating on emissions tests. Subsequent studies have exposed the true levels of NOx, which is emitted more abundantly by diesel vehicles than petrol engines.

A German court ruled last month that German cities can ban the most heavily polluting diesel cars from their streets, a decision that could accelerate the demise of the combustion engine.

Reporting by Markus Wacket; Writing by Joseph Nasr, editing by Pritha Sarkar