How millions of people are fooled by a clique of alleged world improvers. By Harald Kaiser
It's about the number 40. Because 40 micrograms of the gases nitrogen oxide or nitrogen dioxide (NOX / NO2) per cubic meter of air are said to be harmful to health. This is what it has been like to hear, see or read in the war against car emissions for at least three years. Above all, it means the exhaust gas from diesel cars. And because this EU limit value is exceeded more often, especially in city centers, German courts are increasingly imposing driving bans. No matter whether this limit makes sense or is nonsense. Courts do not have to rule on this, they just have to enforce compliance. That is why such judgments are formally okay, because the respective chambers have no choice. Everything else, such as setting the level of such limit values, is a matter for politics.
Now a competent voice from the camp of the opponents of limit values has spoken out, who would have to make you think with a simple reference to the bitter debate. It is a proven expert, the pulmonologist Prof. Dr. med. Dieter Köhler, former president of the German Association of Pneumologists. The 70-year-old doctor from Schmallenberg in the Sauerland region says: "If inhalation of 40 micrograms of NO2 per cubic meter of air were harmful, then all smokers would have to be dead after a few months." Because a smoker inhales up to 1.000 micrograms of NO2. That means around 20.000 micrograms per day in a box and, accordingly, around 600.000 micrograms a month. In a year that would be 7,2 grams of nitrogen dioxide that a smoker inhales. If a non-smoker stood on a street around the clock and inhaled approximately the same amount of NO2 per cubic meter, he would have inhaled nine cubic meters of air and thus 24 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide after 450 hours. After a year, it would be 164.000 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide. A smoker inhales this amount in eight days. Köhler concludes: “If nitrogen dioxide were as dangerous as claimed, all smokers would have to be dead after a few months. That's not the case."
Did his words get stuck somewhere or is there even a discernible discussion? Perhaps in the smallest circles of conversation. But publicly? No. Unfortunately it is the case that people like him are quickly labeled as trivialized and instead those of the masses are heard who, through constant media presence, let their verbal bombardment of the supposedly imminent death of thousands pound down on the general public. As is often the case in history, people quickly think allegedly catchy theses to be the truth and believe the stuff. This is largely the case with today's exhaust gas debate, in the course of which irresponsible handling of numbers and scientific studies (or those that are believed to be) is handled as it was about 30 years ago when another topic aroused the nation. At the time, it was the loudly demanded speed limit on highways that was hotly debated in the Bundestag, which led to special TV programs and split Germany into two camps. Interested groups at the time pursued the goal of leveling themselves in the mantle of the lifesaver in a completely absurd and distorted debate. In truth, however, it was a disguised debate about envy, which meant that Mercedes, BMW or Porsche drivers should under no circumstances be allowed to drive faster than golf owners. And like today in the exhaust gas dispute, certain politicians and media, partly instrumentalized, deliberately or unintentionally ensured that drivers of so-called big-boned cars were seen as racers in millions of heads, who already seemed to be threatening their lives when they entered their supposed racing cars and also with Used to park 200 things.
The yardstick for this predominantly ideologically controlled topic was always the maximum speed and - of course - the highway as a metaphor for a death runway. However, the fact that the freeway was never the problem, but rather the federal, rural or district roads that had been speed-limited for decades, was either not researched or ignored, because otherwise the headlines would not have been tenable. So here is a reminder of the exact numbers, compiled by the Federal Highway Research Institute (BAST) in Bergisch-Gladbach in September 2018, which were largely available to everyone during the mood-making campaign:
Killed 1970 1990 2000 2010 2017
total 19.193 13.041 7.503 3.648 3.180
urban 8.494 2.205 1.829 1.011 976
Kreisstr. 9.754 4.765 4.767 2.207 1.795
Bundesstr. 4.785 1.942 1.908 928 976
Autobahn 945 936 907 476 483
If you read the table carefully, you will quickly notice how absurd the discussion was - despite all the laudable and worthwhile intentions to save and protect human lives.
As in the heated speed limit discussion at the time, it is the same today in the diesel or exhaust gas debate: If you know the real facts and do not stiffen up to the general media roar, you have to touch your brain again and recognize that it is only easy-to-consume rule of thumb and their skilful public sales are important in order to win over millions of people who have little or no expertise and to lead them behind the spruce. Because in spite of the software companies' fraud, which is clearly to be scourged and which is undoubtedly present, only a few of the rumored facts are true. Rather, ideological theater with an enormous dash of vanity determines what is happening in order to illustrate the importance of doing with the help of media drums. The judgment of a single and largely unknown specialist like that of Professor Köhler quickly fizzles out. Mainly because his view of things doesn't fit into the mainstream of general world rescue. He said on November 14th sternTV that "in Germany no one has yet died from nitrogen oxides". The EU limit values for nitrogen oxide and particulate matter are in no way harmful to health. Despite diesel.
Jürgen Resch sees it quite differently. The federal manager of the warning association Deutsche Umweltthilfe eV (DUH) says that tens of thousands of people die in Germany every year as a result of bad air, which is largely burdened by car emissions. For example, Resch spreads it in front of cameras and microphones with a concerned voice and also likes to point out that this number comes from no less an organization than the World Health Organization (WHO). And that, according to the resonating subtext, is beyond any doubt. Resch probably knows that this is by no means the truth, but is rather pure scaremongering for the regulars' table - but hardly any of those who hold out the micro and camera for a crisp statement. Because only that counts. Because this triggers the desired attention (also for Resch) among the viewer, which should contribute to a pleasing audience and ultimately also influence the advertising revenue of the stations.
The complicated truth looks rather like this: The tens of thousands are, firstly, a statistical estimate by the WHO, secondly, based on reports from the WHO members. There can be no question of an in-depth WHO investigation. And furthermore, the WHO points out, for the most part, that they are people who have been or have been severely damaged by other diseases and whose emergence has nothing to do with car emissions. Nevertheless, the WHO recommended a limit of 2005 micrograms of nitrogen oxide / nitrogen dioxide (NOX / NO40) per cubic meter of air back in 2. And the EU implemented it. Before that, in 2003, WHO studies in many cities around the world were evaluated. But only statistically. In addition, today's NOX limit has another weaving error: The WHO report is almost entirely based on data that was determined in periods or regions when the exhaust gas cleaning was far more lax than today.
Most of those who have a say in this discussion should also be unaware that these purely statistical evaluations were not just about nitrogen oxides. Their presence is only a "strong indication of vehicle emissions," says the WHO. Everything else that was in the air in the form of substances or poison was put into the shoes of the supposed scapegoat nitrogen oxide. In plain language: If, for example, 60 micrograms of nitrogen oxide are measured on an annual average on a busy street in Munich or Hamburg, this does not mean that it is this substance that may make you ill. This intermingling was also a topic in front of the Bundestag investigation committee on the VW exhaust gas affair at the beginning of 2017. Annette Peters, back then Professor for epidemiologyamInstitute fFor medical information processing, biometrics and epidemiology at the University of Munich, had to admit that a direct connection between nitrogen oxides and damage to health has never been examined epidemiologically. Peters according to the protocol: "For NO2, I am not aware of any study that has looked systematically at it." This means: Nobody knows which pollutants have caused or continue to cause which damage, but for which nitrogen oxides are generally responsible in the current discussion be made.
Does all this mention the exhaust Messiah Resch in spreading his theses? Not that it was noticed. In addition, the situation is far too complicated to be able to create a mood with the differentiated facts. That is why the topic is condensed into a crunchy rule of thumb that is easier to apply in the media: the nitrogen oxide is the killer. It is therefore no wonder that a particularly sensitive NOX measurement result from Oldenburg is only discussed locally to a limited extent. A marathon was run on October 21 in the city of Lower Saxony. To this end, large parts of the city center were closed to traffic. However, the measuring point on Heiligengeistwall in the immediate vicinity of the running track registered an average of 37 micrograms of NOX / NO2 in the air - even though there were no cars on the road. So just below the permitted daily average of 40 micrograms. In measurement peaks, the value was even higher during the day. Now those responsible are puzzled as to why it could have been. A review of the measuring technology should bring clarity. Also about whether reliable values can be determined in this way at all. Let's see if an ideological fine dust cloud will eventually cloud everything. However, it is clear that the DUH's Oldenburg case should not fit into the concept at all. After recently Cologne and Bonn, Oldenburg is to be cracked as the next city by the DUH by a court to a diesel driving ban.
Other experts support the view of the lung specialist Köhler. For example Professor Martin Hetzel, chief physician of a lung specialist clinic in Stuttgart, who is responsible for hundreds of patients. He also considers the discussion about toxic diesel exhaust gases purely alarmist. "There was no deceased patient here who would come to the conclusion that the high nitrogen concentration was most likely the cause of death", said Hetzel. In view of this, the circus around the meaning and credibility of the general exhaust gas theater strongly reminds of events from 2000 years ago, when a later world-famous preacher traveled through the country to promote his more or less catchy theses about a new religion among the (mostly uneducated) people bring. Like once this trained carpenter, other chosen ones and saviors are now on behalf of the exhaust gas church to promote new believers for your religion. It is surprising that many allegedly enlightened sheep willingly and without skepticism follow them into the anti-auto church.