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No place for conspiracies on exhaust emissions and health

Alan Wenban-Smith Birmingham B13
02 November 2020

I was appalled to read the letters from Paul Withrington and Roger Lawson in the last issue. Paul Withrington complains about “destroying the diesel industry”, referencing a 2010 report by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution about the declining role of exhaust in PM2.5 emissions, contrasting this with its 2020 report stating the absence of evidence of adverse health effects from non-exhaust PM2.5 (‘No compelling evidence that brake & tyre dust harm health’ LTT 16 Oct). 

The letter is pitched in conspiracy theorist rhetoric, ending by accusing COMEAP of seeking to present figures that “play well with often data-free anti car and green lobbies”. The whole thing is headlined ‘War on road traffic particulates is based on junk science’: as these words do not appear in the letter they are presumably the editor’s. 

I am not an expert on diesel emissions, but I thought the main change over the last ten years was increasing concern about health effects of the NOx from diesel rather than the particulates. 

The other letter is an accusation from the Association of British Drivers of “unsubstantiated scaremongering and false allegation” about the relative lethality of air pollution and Covid. This one is genuinely ‘data-free’, but shares the same hostile tone.  

Editor’s note: Paul proposed the headline for his letter, so it accurately captures his view. On reflection I think it is not quite our style – a bit stark and dramatic.     

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