German minister wants EU to review limit on toxic diesel particles

FILE PHOTO: German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin, Germany, January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s transport minister has urged the European Commission in a letter to review its stringent limits on nitrogen dioxide pollution, saying some doctors are questioning their health merits, mass-selling Bild reported.

In his letter, Andreas Scheuer urged the bloc’s Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc to review the current limit on nitrogen dioxide (NOx) pollution, which should not exceed 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air on average.

The transport ministry could not be reached for comment.

Scheuer’s letter reflects concerns among some politicians that stricter emissions rules set in place as a reaction to the fallout from the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal could harm Germany’s car industry.

Volkswagen’s admission in 2015 that it systematically hid illegal pollution levels from regulators has unleashed a legal push by green groups for vehicle bans in cities and forced the government to set a framework for carmakers to upgrade exhaust emissions filtering systems on older diesel cars.

Subsequent studies have shown the true levels of NOx, which is emitted more abundantly by diesel vehicles than petrol engines.

“There are increasing voices in the German medical profession who are casting doubt over the scientific basis for the average of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of nitrogen dioxide in the EU,” Scheuer wrote according to Bild.

A German court ruled last year that 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 Joseph Nasr; Editing by Hugh Lawson