Air pollution via vehicle emissions remains a major issue in many UK towns and cities, despite many ways to try and reduce levels of harmful materials. New government figures suggest that the problem is actually worsening due to garages removing diesel particulate filters (DPFs) from cars that are out of warranty.
The study showed that nearly 1,200 diesel cars were discovered without the filters, but that the problem may be many times worse. The cost of pollution to the NHS is estimated to be around 15 billion pounds annually, with some 29,000 deaths each year attributed to poor air quality and the effects of pollution.
Since 2009, all new diesel cars must have a DPF fitted; however these can become clogged up and the cost of replacement is so prohibitive to many drivers that they are choosing to have them removed during servicing or MOTs – the cost of replacing the filter can run to more than £1,000. The MOT check itself now includes a visual inspection to see if a DPF is fitted, but there are ways to circumvent this by removing the internal filters and then sealing up the exhaust unit to make it look as though it’s complete. Without a proper inspection, it appears that the filter is still in place.
Removing the filter can make emission levels increase by a factor of 5, which is clearly unacceptable and totally removes the benefits of newer diesel technologies. The government has pledged to clean up motoring, and such practices, while not illegal per se, are negatively affecting both the quality of air in our towns and cities and efforts to make our motoring meet green targets. While on the one hand the market is seeing new and used diesel cars which boast far better fuel economy and much lower stated carbon dioxide emissions levels, removing filtration systems is clearly detrimental to health and public safety.
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There are various measures being proposed to check emission levels more thoroughly. One way is to enhance the sensitivity of equipment used to carry out emissions tests during the MOT; this may come into force in the UK by 2017, but it is only a small step in identifying potentially tens of thousands more vehicles which have had their DPFs removed. Other measures could potentially include a rise in private and motor trade insurance on vehicles identified as having had their DPF taken out. Calls for the removal of the DPF to be made illegal have as yet fallen on deaf ears, with the practice still not banned under UK law.
With ever-improving fuel technologies meaning that we are seeing greener and more environmentally-friendly cars appearing on trade plates, the practice of DPF removal is one that needs to be urgently addressed.