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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 17:56 GMT
Drivers face spot check exhaust fines
Car exhaust fumes
Spot-checks could take place by the end of the year
Drivers in Wales face being fined if their vehicles fail to meet exhaust emissions standards during spot-checks.

Tests are to be introduced in parts of Swansea, Cardiff, Neath and Port Talbot, with the aim of cleaning up the most polluted areas of towns and cities.

Environment Minister Sue Essex
Environment Minister Sue Essex: Considering new exhaust checks

If cars were found to have failed the emissions test, drivers would immediately be fined 60.

The trials could start by the end of 2002, with the scheme going nationwide within the following 12 months.

Welsh Assembly Environment Minister Sue Essex addressed the issue of traffic pollution during a TransportAction workshop in Cardiff on Tuesday.

She also announced that just over 1m will be pumped into road haulage vehicles to reduce their emissions over the next two years.

The tests will be trialled in urban areas where traffic fumes are thought to be a major cause of pollution problems.

However, there will be consultation on whether the system should apply across Wales.

Cyclist wearing pollution mask
The fines could deter traffic pollution

A similar scheme has already been trialled in Swansea, but the on-the-spot fine is a new development.

But if a driver fixes the problem or can show that the car is regularly serviced, the penalty could be reduced.

Julian Rosser, of the environmental group Friends of the Earth Cymru, gave a cautious welcome to plans for emission tests.

"What we have to do as a nation is to put in place the alternatives - decent public transport provision - as well as cleaning up the cars that are on the roads at the moment."

But Alison Burkhill of the Automobile Association (AA) was uncertain that motorists would be able to monitor the pollution being caused by their vehicles.

"It's very difficult for any driver to be able to tell that their CO2 emission is high, unless there's an obvious sign such as black plumes of smoke coming out of the back of the car."

Major killer

Car exhausts contain a range of toxic substances that can have a serious impact on health, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

The most obvious health impact of car emissions is on the respiratory system.

Potentially dangerous vehicle emissions include:
Carbon monoxide
Nitrogen dioxide
Sulphur dioxide
Polycyclic hydrocarbons
Tiny suspended particles

Once the substances are released into the air, they are breathed in and transported in the bloodstream to all the body's major organs.

It has been estimated that air pollution - of which vehicle emissions are the major contributor - is responsible for around 24,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.

These deaths can be caused by asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases - all of which are known to be aggravated by exposure to car fumes.

In a separate development, up to 30 vehicles in north Wales owned by Gwynedd Council and the Snowdonia National Park Authority will be converted to liquid petroleum gas, a more environmentally-friendly fuel.

BBC Wales's Roger Pinney
"What's new is a proposed carrot-and-stick approach"
See also:

06 Mar 02 | Health
Air pollution cancer fears grow
06 May 99 | Medical notes
Exhaust emissions
30 Apr 01 | Health
Deadly gas 'could save lives'
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