Nitrogen oxide: Is it really that dangerous, lung doctors ask?

Posted: January 24, 2019 by oldbrew in Critique, Emissions, pollution, Travel

Here we’re quoting the most relevant part of a longer article discussing this issue, also including particulates. Has the German public and the world been fed a scare story that gives diesels an unfair image, to some extent at least?

Several German pulmonary physicians question the current nitrogen oxide and particulate matter limits, says

These are inadequate and mainly based on questionable epidemiological studies, they say.
– – –
Many victims of smoking, but where are the NOx deaths?

Should there actually be many causal deaths from particulate matter and NOx, then lung doctors should notice this in their daily practice, Köhler argues. But this is not the case at all.

Köhler cites an epidemiological study commissioned by Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA) as an example. This study calculates additional deaths per year for NOx at 6,000 – 13,000 and for particulate matter at 60,000 – 80,000. That would be about as many people as dying a result of smoking.

“In their practices and clinics, pulmonary physicians see [deaths caused by cigarette smoke] on a daily basis; however, deaths caused by particulate matter and NOx, even after careful investigation, never,” write the pulmonary physicians in their counterposition.

So it is “very likely” that the scientific data leading to these estimates “contains a systematic error.” Apparently, they have been “interpreted extremely one-sidedly” and “always with the objective that particulate matter and NOx must be harmful,” they write.

Appeal for a fair and open discussion

Köhler and his colleagues see their paper as helping to bring more objectivity to the emotional debate about driving bans, pollution limits and diesel exhaust gases. At least here they agree with the representatives of the established associations of pulmonary physicians.

The DGP, the Association of Pneumological Clinics (VPK), and the German Lung Foundation regard the publication “as an impetus for necessary research activities and a critical examination of the effects of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter,” write the respective chairmen of the three associations […] in a joint press release.

Full report here.

  1. Stephen Richards says:

    The body produces Nox for protection but in very small amounts. But then, so do cars and lorries. It’s parts per billion.

  2. oldbrew says:

    The core of his criticism is the confusion of causality and correlation by epidemiologists. In other words: In areas with high levels of particulate matter and NOx, people die on average somewhat earlier than elsewhere. But whether they also die from particulate matter and NOx is completely unclear. –

  3. Saighdear says:

    Well now, That’s a funny thing …. LAST NIGHT on German TV – I caught something about Diesels older than the latest Euro-Norm (5 or 6) are NOT allowed to use the Lane next to the PAVEMENT where the pedestrians walk and where the Measuring stations are set back against a building. NO Kidding – This way older generation Diesel will be allowed back into the many Cities whilst NOT aggravating the readings taken by the instruments ! You couldn’t make this stuff up. Made in Germany ! ( aye, mun – not the same as the good old Made in W.Germany, or for all that Made in the GDR eg Praktica Cameras, etc ). That’s Euro Lala Land for you.

  4. Dave Ward says:

    “But whether they also die from particulate matter and NOx is completely unclear”

    One death in the UK could become a test case in the courts:

    “Rosamund Kissi-Debrah’s daughter Ella, nine, died six years ago from asthma. Ella suffered attacks linked to pollution spikes near her home in Lewisham, London. The Attorney general has granted permission for the family to request a new inquest.”

  5. Saighdear says:

    Now, as being involved quite a bit with old and new Tech Diesel & Petrol engines, I am extremely sceptical of all this BIo-fuel and Ad-Blue rubbish, as I call it. Years ago we had NO Problem whatsover with working in buildings where Diesels ran / idled. After the Smoke Emissions Legislation of the ? 70’s ? there was definitely a great improvemnt in air quality all round. Since we’ve gone on to Low Sulphur diesels followed by the various compulsory additives over the recent years, we just cannot work alongside MANY- but not all, diesels, but then OUTDOORS around confined buildings, as on a street, too, I WOULD NOT like to be around many vehicles – the ACRID STENCH from some of them – NO ONE seems to discuss this “feature” and what causes it. Really , I feel , that this smell is akin to the MSM using the Steaming Power station Chimneys/cooling towers as depicting CO2 emissions…

  6. MrGrimNasty says:

    A few years ago the climate propaganda machine decided that global warming wasn’t getting the public on board and getting the political/societal changes they were advocating. They actually designed a new strategy to change the narrative to air pollution – your car is killing your neighbour’s child type claims. It was shortly after that that all these studies and news stories started appearing.
    I’ve paraphrased their words from memory but that was pretty much it. Sadly I did not keep the link to the source and I can no longer find it – but I certainly didn’t dream it. The attribution of deaths to (the low levels we have) air pollution is just another branch of the paid for climate advocacy junk science franchise.

  7. stewgreen says:

    The standard rule is “show me the bodies”
    ie if a claim is made that substance X kills people, the claimer should be able to produce death certificates which show substance X as cause of death.

    In the case of women cooking over indoor wood/dung fires in Asia/Africa the air pollution deaths do seem real.
    Yet when the great campaigns started about UK ROAD POLLUTION , there appear to be zero bodies
    and then you check you find that death counts were a theoretical “equivalent deaths” number made up by adding up the general population’s theoretical shorter lives (of about a month or two).
    So i was immediately suspicious that some other motivation lay behind the PR campaign
    perhaps #1 PR for electric car SUBSIDIES on the grounds that #dieselsRpaedos
    and I theorise there is a second motivation. #2 that it makes a good tool for politicians like Sadiq, cos he can fail at crime, public transport etc. and use clean road schemes as a tool to bash the Tories by hyping it up as a crisis ..and saying that they are not doing enough.

    I maintain a discussion thread on the topic, as I monitor what appear to be PR campaigns similar to that on global warming issues.

  8. Gamecock says:

    Steve Milloy, epidemiologist extraordinaire, has shown for years that deaths from particulates are double ought zero. None.

  9. TomO says:

    The eco-activists antics in exploiting bereavement in single cases is utterly rancid That North Circular dweller child’s death while unquestionably sad – but cannot be laid at the door of diesel engines.

    UK Asthma treatment (and consequent deaths) has issueswhich are acknowledged to be unrelated to either NOx or diesel combustion particulates (grass pollen less so I heard). “Ella’s Law” might be more productively targeted at NHS executives by the look of it.

    I find it near impossible to discuss the topic without resorting to profanity when Client Earth and assorted tosspot MPs indulge in weapons grade flatulism about air pollution and use that “40,000 people a year in the UK die from air pollution” strapline.

    As for quackademics – iirc it was Southampton University that produced a study claiming that kitchens were the worst room in the house for “second hand tobacco smoke” – a few people pointed out that the accumulations of chemical compounds discovered might just be something associated with cooking …. I bet the same department have got grants for more air pollution research.

  10. stpaulchuck says:

    Gamecock says:
    January 24, 2019 at 11:43 pm
    I bought his book on PM2.5 (particulate matter 2.5 micron (size)). It’s all down to the idiot correlation and confirmation bias junk science along with the LNT (linear no threshold) lie.

    I believe Steve (and others) have pointed to the Chinese air pollution and lack of significant deaths “problem” for these snake oil salesmen.

  11. Graeme No.3 says:

    I hesitate to pollute the pages of this august blog with low life but small amounts of nitrogen oxides are thought to provoke penile erections, hence the once? prevalent amyl nitrite sniffing in certain circles (hint – not Church type circles, although I cannot rule out some of the Conservative Party types).

  12. Stephen Richards says:

    Graeme No.3 says:
    January 25, 2019 at 8:53 am

    As I commented above. It also is produced to protect the artery walls

  13. Phoenix44 says:

    The relative risks in all the studies are extremely small, usually too small as to be considered a null result – but not when you can make a Green scare story of course. And many have huge methodological issues as well – including deaths from exposures ranging from an hour to decades and using self-reported exposures.

    They all suffer from the Exposure Fallacy as well – the deaths are based on presumed exposure based on addresses, but many “deaths” are amongst people who live elsewhere but have a registered address in an area with higher pollution.

    Finally particulate levels have fallen 4-6 fold in recent decades, so where are the lives saved from that? If particulate levels now arecso dangerous, they must have been absolutely lethal in the 1970s.

    In other words it’s all junk.

  14. Saighdear says:

    ….’..the kitchen…’ eh? Yes, now that’s a good valid point – as good as APEX PREDATORS consuming accumulate toxins…. Now, I have a machine to collect and Vac. Bag Tree leaves in autumn – idea being to allow to compost and sell on to gardeners. “NO! you can’t do that …” say the regulatory authorities – “you are collcting accumulated toxins from the air and weedkillers in the soil” ….. and I DO KNOW that when harvesting cereals, in some years at odd locations of a field, you perceive a very strong Chemical (WEEDKILLER) smell…. so maybe there’s something in the story. After some herbicides, Brassicas don’t grow very well, whether the field has been cleared of the straw, OR FYM incorporating that straw ( Academically documented since the 80’s ). So THEREFORE when my Dearest or Cooking staff working long hours over a hot stove, COULD be prone to the heated proceeds of toxins from Veg AND Meats where that raw material had been prone to treatment with whatever noxious products. THe Heating / Burning processes mixed with other other chemicals at high temps in sufficient quantities, could possibly relate to someproblems, worth investigating.
    Off to check my Kitchen ventilation sytem and Filters!

  15. TomO says:

    Saighdear well yes…. except that that Soton (?) study proclaimed it was ‘orrible smokers putting people at risk…

    – as in read it wrong and then use your wrong reading for extrapolating into an area deemed worth paying for by your sponsors – no problem if you get it wrong as challenges won’t be reported with the same gusto as the original junk – rinse and repeat.

  16. Gamecock says:

    ‘This study calculates additional deaths per year for NOx at 6,000 – 13,000’

    Wow! Up to 13,000!

    Bet they can’t name one. NOT A ONE! Out of 13,000. Proof that they are lying.

    Unless, of course, I don’t understand what a ‘calculated death’ is, which is possible. Or should that be ‘additional death?’ Is ‘additional death’ something to fear?

  17. michael hart says:

    Part of the problem with nitrogen oxides is their chemical instability in the presence of oxygen, sunlight, water, and..just about any other biologically significant molecule in humans, and many others commonly encountered in the environment. (Confusingly, only nitrous oxide, N2O, the one used in dentistry, is almost chemically inert in a chemical and biochemical sense.)

    This reactivity makes it difficult to examine the effects of nitrogen oxides even under carefully controlled laboratory conditions. They were certainly always regarded as highly toxic before the mid 1980s when Ignarro et al recognised that nitric oxide (NO) was actually a very import molecule in the human body in a wide array of biochemical processes. Depending on context, the high reactivity and normally short-lifetime of this molecule was what made it such a surprising candidate for the roles it is now known to fulfill. This led to perhaps one of the most surprising yet important Nobel Prizes awarded in the medical field for many years.