DIESEL drivers who try to save money by removing a pollution filter are harming the air quality in towns and cities, and campaigners say the authorities are doing nothing.
Tens of thousands of diesel vehicles may be on the roads without their diesel particulate filter (DPF), an investigation has found. The filter cuts harmful emissions by up to 95%.
All diesels made since 2009 have the device, but it can get clogged up and cause a breakdown, especially if the vehicle is used only for urban driving, often costing £1,000 or more to repair or replace. Many motorists decide to have it removed instead, which is allowed, even though it is illegal to drive without one.
A freedom of information request by BBC Radio 5 Live to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) found that 1,800 cars had been caught without the filter in the past three years. The total number of cars on the road without a DPF is likely to be significantly higher because the MoT test requires only a visual inspection from the outside, allowing modified vehicles to pass with ease.
The radio station had a filter removed from a car and took it to three MoT test centres. It passed at each one.
Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College London, described the health impact as devastating. “If a filter is removed, it takes the work being done to restrict emissions back 30 years,” he told the BBC. “The particles lead to numerous health problems such as lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and can also affect an unborn child in the womb.”
Experts are demanding more thorough MoT inspections and better enforcement. Nick Molden, of Emissions Analytics, said: “It is clear a more detailed inspection of vehicles is required during MoTs, and potentially spot checking of vehicles in real-world situations is needed too. The MoT test is clearly not fit for purpose in checking if a filter has been removed.”
Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the Commons environmental audit committee, said: “I’m concerned there could be tens of thousands of cars on the road which have had these filters removed. The government should tighten MoT tests and close the legal loophole that allows garages to remove them and cheat the public out of clean air.”
The DVSA told the BBC: “We are making further changes to the MoT manual and to the diesel emissions limits for modern vehicles in May 2018. These will make the test more robust and better able to detect where emissions control equipment has been tampered with.”
Drivers of diesel vehicles made before 2005 who enter the central London congestion charge zone now have to pay a £10 emissions surcharge, or T-charge, on top of the £11.50 daily fee. In two years the charge will be extended to pre-September 2015 diesel cars.
This article first appeared in The Times