The tide is turning against diesel cars. After years of popularity thanks to tax incentives, lawmakers are finally realising the negative effect of diesel pollution on human health.

A new study by Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Dusseldorf, Germany, is unlikely to help diesel’s image, as it has shown that people who live in urban areas that are heavily affected by pollution from diesel vehicles are more likely to suffer from premature skin ageing.

The research, which analysed the effect of pollution in five different studies – two in Germany and three in China, where air pollution is often much greater than in Europe – focused on particulate matter. These microscopic bits of soot can be damaging to lungs, but have also been shown to bring skin out in blotches.

The Daily Mail reports researcher Professor Jean Krutmann as commenting: “The blemishes are very visible. People exposed to high urban air pollution have more pigment spots because the pollution makes their skin age faster than those living in the country.

“We found that people living in cities have skin that ages faster, with many more pigment spots over their faces.

“Someone working in the middle of London, or other UK cities with high pollution levels, will be at risk of all the same effects of air pollution, including skin-ageing and pigmentation.”

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), another toxic diesel emission, is also being blamed for premature ageing. “We found that a long-term increase in NO2 of just 10 micrograms (millionths of a gram) per cubic metre of air was associated with a 25 per cent increase in pigmentation spots,” Professor Krutmann continued.

EU regulations state that ambient quantities of NO2 and particulates should not breach 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air. However, congested cities such as London regularly exceed this by as much as three times.

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