Diesel particulate filters (DPF's) stop harmful particulate matter from being released in the air in an attempt to reduce or at least air pollution, which causes hundreds of thousands of early deaths in the whole of Europe each year.
This being said, Belgium's vehicle inspection centres fail to detect DPF removals in cars because the measuring system is obsolete. Experts say that the exhaust tests in Belgium are "lagging at least 10 years behind". (continue reading below the video)
It's all about money
Motorists are being tempted to have it removed for a simple reason. When the DFP needs to be replaced, it is cheaper to have it simply removed than to have a new one installed. Luc Pauwels of the VRT: "Having it replaced will set you back 2,000 euros or more. Some car repair centres offer to remove it, which only costs about 450 euros."
"This is of course illegal, because more particulate matter is being released in the air. Soot particle emissions are going up by 90 percent."
DPF removed? No problem...
This has consequences for public health, and the car is no longer up to standards, but this mostly goes by unnoticed. Various garages in Belgium are even making publicity online.
When these soot filters have been taken out, a car can still pass the annual car test in Belgium (which includes a pollution test) without any problem, a practical test revealed. In Belgium, motorists have to take their car to an inspection centre for a whole set of yearly tests, when the vehicle has turned four.
The VRT wanted to be sure whether all this is actually so and took on the challenge. Luc Pauwels (small picture) quickly found a garage willing to remove the DPF in his diesel car, and next went to a local inspection centre. He passed without a problem. (see video)
"We are talking about many vehicles"
So how many cases of illegally removed DPF's would Belgium have? "There are no official figures available for obvious reasons", says Luc Pauwels, "but if I look at the material I came across when compiling this story, we are talking about many vehicles, and not just in Belgium."
Experts are putting the number at "almost 100,000" in Belgium alone. Car inspection centres admit there is a problem, and are also asking for better and more up-to-date tests.
Health experts put the number of early deaths in Belgium due to air pollution at some 2,500 each year.