Consumers affected by emissions of mobile machinery exceeding limit values

A relevant number of handheld machinery is sold on the European market illegally. Consumers can neither trust the label for legal conformity (CE label) nor distinguish between good and bad devices as far as emissions are concerned. As a consumer protection organization authorized to file law suits we want to make sure that limit values for hazardous emission are complied with by all machines sold in Europe.

The limit values established in EU Directive 97/68/EC and its amending acts for non-road mobile machinery aim at protecting human health and the environment by limiting the emission of hazardous substances contained in the exhaust gas. Negative impacts from those emissions from motor saws or brush cutters are aggravated by the fact that they are emitted close to the user´s body and head. The most dangerous substances are carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxide (NOx).

DUH is raising awareness among responsible authorities and the public. We carried out intense public relations work, own research on market surveillance and had in-depth conversations with policy-makers at federal and regional level as well as competent authorities. DUH focuses on four target groups: manufacturers, consumer markets, market surveillances authorities and approval authorities.

Emission measurements 2015
DUH commissioned a measurement of eight chain saws and four brush cutters in 2014 carried out by TÜV Nord. The results showed that eight out of twelve engines exceed the limit values for CO, HC and NOx.

Emission measurements 2016
In total, 18 of the 24 device types significantly exceeded the limit values for HC+NOx (total of hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions). Only seven of the 33 objects tested complied with the current limit value level II of Directive 97/68/EC in its version 2012/46/EU. On seven of the tested machines it was not possible to find or read the type approval number. In six of the devices bought on the German market, the carburetor could be unrestrictedly adjusted by the user.

Emission measurements 2017 
The 21 devices measured in 2017 were taken from the German, Swedish, Denish and French market. Nine of them do not comply with the EU limit values for HC+NOx (sum of Hydrocarbons and Carbon monoxide)  – three of these machines exceed the limit value for CO additionally. With a limit value exceedance of 760% the highest exceedance ever have been documented in 2017.
The type approval number of five of these devices is of particular note. For three machines the information about the limit value, which needs to be right behind the approval number, is missing. Two of the devices did not have a approval number at all.

Emission measurements 2018
The switch to rechargeable battery technology is making steady progress with hand-held machinery. However, for very powerful machines, such as motor chain saws, there are no equivalent alternatives with battery drive available for all types of application yet. Therefore, in 2018 the emissions of ten motor chain saws were checked. The focus of the measurements was on the German market. In order to reflect the most common sales channels, the majority of the equipment was procured online. Five of the motor chainsaws tested show high exceedances of the EU total limit value for HC+NOx - three of those additionally exceed the limit value for carbon monoxide (CO). In addition, no approval number could be found for one device. Likewise, no reference to the manufacturer or importer could be found. No serial number was noted on another test object.

The results above show, that motor saws and brush cutters are distributed in Europe which pose a danger to user health and contaminate the air for years. To protect consumer effectively from emissions, market surveillance, including emission tests, is urgently needed. The measures taken so far by public authorities in Europe are not consistent enough.

Therefore DUH demands the following:

  • Valid legislation must be complied with by all market actors. In particular, limit values protecting the environment and human health must be met.
  • Consistent and coordinated market surveillance by all competent national authorities is needed.
  • Establishment of specific obligations subject to sanctions for all market players by European legislators.
  • The emission behavior of handheld machinery must be constantly improved.

More about Clean Air (German)


Copyright: © Steffen Holzmann / DUH

Agnes Sauter
Bereichsleiterin Ökologische Marktüberwachung
E-Mail: Mail schreiben

Copyright: © DUH / Heidi Scherm

Dorothee Saar
Bereichsleiterin Verkehr und Luftreinhaltung
E-Mail: Mail schreiben

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