BERLIN, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Nitrogen oxide pollution is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Germans each year, a study published on Thursday by the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) warns.
According to the study, 6,000 individuals died prematurely in 2014 of cardiovascular diseases connected to long-term nitrogen oxide pollution. In total, around a million incidents of ill health were traceable to the emissions which are overwhelmingly released by diesel vehicles in cities.
The findings are likely to reinforce demands for driving bans on certain diesel vehicles in Germany which have been debated intensely in the wake of the ongoing "dieselgate" emissions-cheating scandal.
The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig recently ruled that municipal governments had the right to unilaterally remove heavily-polluting vehicles from traffic as an ultimate means to ensure compliance with European Union (EU) clean air regulations.
UBA President Maria Krautzberger emphasized that the study presented strong evidence that Germans living in areas which were most-affected by nitrogen oxide pollution faced the highest risk of related disease.
Krautzberger noted that the findings were based on conservative estimates and hence only marked the "lower-bound limit" of damage to public health caused by poor urban air quality.
"We have to succeed in lowering emissions to the regulatory limits in the next years," Krautzberger argued.
At present, nitrogen oxide emissions levels exceed the limit set by the EU in at least 20 German cities.