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Campaign calls for filters on diesel vehicles

Filters reduce harmful emissions from diesel engines by 95 per cent

(Keystone)

The Transport and Environment Association, the Swiss Lung League and the trade union Unia have called for obligatory particle filters for all new diesel vehicles.

In Switzerland, up to 4,000 deaths per year are attributed to exposure to fine particles in the air from diesel exhaust fumes.

The campaigners have sought legal advice on the issue and claim that a general filter requirement could be introduced easily and rapidly.

They want all new diesel vehicles imported into Switzerland to be fitted with filters. The Transport and Environment Association says there are no legal obstacles to the introduction of this requirement. Currently, an estimated 30 per cent of diesel imports have filters.

At a news conference on Thursday the association's president, Franziska Teuscher, contrasted the problem with the reaction to bird flu.

"A slight suspicion of a pandemic is apparently enough to put half the world on alert, yet no alarm has been issued about particles, despite the fact that 3,000 to 4,000 people die each year through exposure to them," she said.

Health concern

Prolonged exposure to hazardous particles can aggravate respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis and even cause cancer.

Particle filters are especially important for the health of construction workers, according to Hansueli Scheidegger of the largest trade union, Unia. It is already obligatory for large and medium-sized construction machines to be fitted with filters.

Teuscher added that it was the duty and the job of a government to take precautions for the wellbeing of the population.

The lawyer Rainer Weibel, who advised the Transport and Environment Association on the issue, said he saw no international legal grounds for not introducing obligatory filters.

However, the WTO has raised objections, saying such a step would technically amount to a trade barrier.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Diesel emissions in Switzerland account for 40% of all fine particles released by traffic. A diesel engine produces up to 1,000 times more fine particles than a petrol engine.

According to a study by the Federal Spatial Development Office, more than 3,700 premature deaths annually are connected to particles released by diesel engines.

The Federal Environment Office estimates that particle filters reduce the level of fine particles in diesel exhaust fumes by 95%.

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