In attributing the rise in air pollutants in London to the EU, Nigel Pollitt is being disingenuous (Letters, 6 June). As chairman of the UK Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards for a decade to 2002, I was regularly asked by journalists as to whether diesel or petrol vehicles were better, and always gave the same answer: it depends whether you wish to increase air pollution or to accelerate global climate change, since diesel was more efficient but also more polluting. Thus it would have been Hobson’s choice, were it not for the unasked alternative, which was to get out of the car or, if that was not always possible, to drive the car with the smallest possible engine and to do so with minimal use of accelerator and brake.

Mr Pollitt should also know that all the evidence-based air quality standards that our panel proposed to the UK government were passed into law and then used by the EU for setting pan-European standards, resulting in a general reduction of pollution across Europe and in the UK. The recent rise in pollution in London is related to the selfish behaviour of those who purchase large diesel vehicles and use them for short journeys when efficient electric and hybrid vehicles are now available.
Anthony Seaton
Emeritus professor of environmental medicine, Aberdeen University

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Source: Guardian Environment