Dieselgate scandal will take 1,200 lives, study warns

If Volkswagen could recall and retrofit all affected German-sold vehicles by the end of 2017, “this would avert 2,600 additional premature deaths". [Automobile Italia/Flickr]

Dieselgate will claim 1200 lives, a new study of the Volkswagen scandal claims.

Pollution from 2.6 million VW cars sold in Germany between 2008 and 2015, manipulated to seem less polluting than they were, will cause 1,200 premature deaths in Europe, a study into the health impacts of the fraud said today (3 March).

“The researchers estimate that 1,200 people in Europe will die early, each losing as much as a decade of their life, as a result of excess emissions generated,” said the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which took part in the study.

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Germans severely affected

Of these, an estimated 500 deaths will occur in Germany and the rest in neighbouring countries, including Poland, France, and the Czech Republic, according to findings published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The same team of researchers had previously estimated that excess emissions from 482,000 Volkswagens sold in the United States would cause 60 premature American deaths.

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In 2015, the German automobile manufacturer admitted to having installed software in 11 million diesel engines worldwide to circumvent emissions tests.

VW’s intention was to make the cars appear to be compliant with pollution limits while in fact, they were emitting health-harming pollutants.

In Germany, 2.6 million Volkswagens were sold under the VW, Audi, Skoda, and Seat brands, said the researchers.

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A European Parliament inquiry committee into the Dieselgate scandal approved a report yesterday (28 February) calling for a new agency to oversee road transport but stopped short of blaming new President Antonio Tajani for enabling widespread emissions cheating during his time as EU Industry Commissioner.

Air pollution “doesn’t care about political boundaries; it just goes straight past,” commented study co-author Steven Barrett, of MIT.

“Thus a car in Germany can easily have significant impacts in neighbouring countries, especially in densely populated areas such as the European continent.”

If Volkswagen could recall and retrofit all affected German-sold vehicles by the end of 2017, “this would avert 2,600 additional premature deaths and €4.1 billion in corresponding health costs”, the authors said.

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