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In 2021, Emissions Analytics administered a study on behalf of a law firm. The findings indicated that over 20% of the more than 30 million vehicles driven on roads in the UK release nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in excess of the legal limits.

According to the research, every year, UK diesel vehicles contribute around 17,900 tonnes of NOx, which are in excess of the EU’s regulatory limits. Over 89% of these are emitted by Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesel-powered vehicles that were manufactured from the years 2009 to 2014. Regular emissions would have been only about 9,500 tonnes.

These numbers are equivalent to at least one in five vehicles emitting toxic gases at unlawful levels. 

Diesel vehicles

Diesel vehicles used to be the preferred option for drivers looking for cleaner alternatives. They were promoted as safer than petrol-powered vehicles because they released lesser volumes of CO2 or carbon dioxide. Being exposed to CO2 can lead to several health problems, such as breathing problems, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, tingling sensations, convulsions, and coma.

Over the years, however, a chain of events that uncovered the dangerous side of diesel vehicles hogged the headlines. Foremost among these events is the biggest controversy that rocked the automobile industry – the Dieselgate scandal.

It was September 2015 when the world was introduced to the diesel emissions scandal. It involved German carmaker the Volkswagen Group and authorities from the California Air Resources Board and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States. VW received a notice of violation from the authorities after defeat devices were allegedly found in Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles that were sold to US consumers.

The defeat devices, also known as cheat software, were programmed to detect when a vehicle is in the lab being tested for emissions compliance. The devices then bring down emissions to safe levels that the World Health Organization mandated. As such, defeat device-equipped vehicles are safe in the eyes of regulators. However, when brought out of the lab and used on real-world roads, they pump out massive amounts of nitrogen oxides, often at levels in excess of the legal limits.

US authorities ordered a recall of all affected vehicles and VW had to pay fines and fees as well.

Not long after the Volkswagen diesel emissions fiasco broke out, another carmaker was discovered to have allegedly used defeat devices. Mercedes-Benz received the same notice from US authorities and also had to recall vehicles and paid fines. 

Over the years, more and more vehicle manufacturers were found to have allegedly outfitted their vehicles with defeat devices, including BMW, Renault, Vauxhall, and Nissan.

The gas emitted by diesel vehicles, nitrogen oxide, is one of the most dangerous for humans and the environment. NOx has nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as one of its major components, along with nitric oxide (NO), and both have negative effects on a person’s health. 

When a person is exposed to nitrogen oxide, they are exposed to multiple health problems as well. Mental health issues and cognitive abilities are affected, which can result in episodes of anxiety and depression and higher risks of developing dementia.

Other health conditions that may arise due to regular exposure to nitrogen oxides include pulmonary oedema, asthma, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and breathing difficulties. Serious health issues may also develop, the most life-threatening of which are asphyxiation, vocal cord spasms, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Premature death has also been recognised as a primary effect of high-level exposure to nitrogen oxide emissions.

Environmental effects that result from toxic diesel emissions include acid rain, smog, and ground-level ozone, a pollutant that can weaken and damage vegetation.

What you can do

Carmakers involved in the defeat device scandal are responsible for two things:

1. Lying to their customers about the performance condition of the vehicles

2. Mis-selling the vehicles as emissions-compliant even if they emitted unlawful levels of nitrogen oxides

These illegal actions should not be taken for granted. Authorities urge affected drivers to bring their carmakers to court through a diesel claim, a legal action specifically focused on the Dieselgate scandal. If the claim is successful, the driver can receive compensation, the amount of which will depend on the details of the case.

You can file a diesel claim versus your carmaker once you have verified that you are eligible to claim compensation.

How can I verify my diesel claim?

Not all diesel vehicles are equipped with defeat devices, only specific models manufactured in certain years were allegedly fitted with the cheat software. Thus, it is important to first find out if your vehicle falls in any of the affected categories.

To check if you are eligible to file an emission claim, visit and collect all the pertinent data you need about your vehicle. Once you have verified, find and sit down with an emissions expert so you can plan how you can carry out your diesel claim. You can choose to go forward on your own or join a GLO (Group Litigation Order).

Clare Louise