Athens: Installing scrubbers to vessels’ exhaust funnels could help save some of the 60,000 lives lost every year to lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases caused by emissions from ships, new research suggests.
Researchers from Germany’s University of Rostock and environmental research centre Helmholzzentrum Munich have just published a new paper (see below) that establishes a close link between shipping exhaust emissions and serious diseases.
Heavy metals, hydrocarbons, sulphur dioxide and carcinogenic particulate matter (PM) are emitted from ships when vessels burn conventional heavy fuel oil (HFO) or diesel.
“Despite a lower content of known toxic compounds, combustion particles from the clean shipping fuel DF [diesel fuel] influenced several essential pathways of lung cell metabolism more strongly than particles from the unrefined fuel HFO,” the study says.
“This might be attributable to a higher soot content in DF. Thus the role of diesel soot, which is a known carcinogen in acute air pollution-induced health effects should be further investigated. For the use of HFO and DF we recommend a reduction of carbonaceous soot in the ship emissions by implementation of filtration devices.”
Shipping emits around half of all PM-related air pollution in coastal areas, rivers and ports, making the health of people in coastal areas most at risk, the study found.
Health conditions caused by shipping emissions costs European health services an estimated €58bn each year. The implementation of Europe’s new sulphur emissions control area (SECA), which became effective on January 1 this year, could save the continent’s health services up to €23bn, according to Germany-based campaign group Transport & Environment.
“We need meaningful measures to incentivise the uptake of cleaner marine fuels as a stepping stone towards cleaning up the sector,” said Sotiris Raptis, clean shipping officer at Transport & Environment.
The research paper, titled ‘Particulate Matter from Both Heavy Fuel Oil and Diesel Fuel Shipping Emissions Show Strong Biological Effects on Human Lung Cells at Realistic and Comparable In Vitro Exposure Conditions’, can be accessed here.