German backlash against EU air pollution limits 'lacks evidence'

(The Guardian, 5 Feb 2019) World Health Organization official comments on row about safe levels of nitrogen dioxide.

The World Health Organization says it has seen no evidence to support a German backlash against tough EU air pollution limits.

The country’s transport minister, Andreas Scheuer, sent a letter to the European commission last week calling for a review of the EU’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits, despite signs of a government split over the issue.

Scheuer’s claim that “increasing voices” in Germany’s medical profession were casting doubt on the science behind clean air benchmarks provoked a strong response from the EU environment commissioner, Karmenu Vella, who said if the limits were changed they would only be made stronger.

The dispute followed an open letter by 107 German lung specialists who argued that health fears about vehicle exhaust emissions had been overblown.

Prof Dieter Köhler, the paper’s author – and a former president of Germany’s Federal Association of Pulmonologists, Sleep and Respiratory Doctors (BdP) – is in Brussels for talks with senior EU environment over the issue, even though the BdP has disowned his opinion, describing the initiative as ill-informed “populism”.

The WHO’s climate and health team leader, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, told the Guardian the German material published so far should not be considered as a basis for discussion.

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The Guardian, 5 Feb 2019: German backlash against EU air pollution limits 'lacks evidence'