More Needed to Combat Ship Emission Health Hazard

Ships and Emissions

By Kathryn Stone 06-10-2015 06:53:29

Current scrubbers alone may not be enough to combat the dangers associated with ship exhausts, a new study claims.

Scientists at the University of Rostock have recently found that both unrefined heavy fuel oil (HFO) and marine diesel (DF) are closely linked with serious disease.

"The results are startling and confirms our worst fears: ship emissions cause serious diseases of the lungs and heart," said Leif Miller CEO of the NABU environmental group.

Epidemiological studies have repeatedly found that as many as 60,000 annual deaths from lung and heart diseases can be traced back to ship-related PM. Also, shipping is responsible for around 50% of PM pollution found in coastal regions.

The International Maritime Organization has established an international maximum sulfur content of 3.5% for shipping fuel. Emission Control Areas such as California and EU ports have adopted a stricter .1% limit. These emission regulations have largely targeted HFO, however the study indicates the effects of cleaner-burning DF are still cause for concern.

While HFO was proven to contain a larger amount of toxic compounds, DF caused a stronger reaction in human lung cells. This might be the result of a higher soot content in DF. 

In 2013 the World Health Organization found that diesel soot was as carcinogenic as asbestos. Soot particles are also the second strongest climate change contributor.

Half-hearted solutions, such as the scrubber technology or efficiency measures alone are not enough to protect human health and the environment long, " Miller added.

In addition to continued efforts to reduce SOX and NOX, the scientist recommend wide-spread adoption of particle filter technology to reduce the amount of PM generated by ship emissions. “From a regulatory perspective, the next step should be the introduction of legal emissions limits for respirable PM,” the authors of the study claim. 

The complete report can be found here.