VW emissions scandal could lead to 1,200 early deaths in Europe, says MIT

An MIT study on the impact of Volkswagen’s excess emissions estimates that around 1,200 people in Europe will die prematurely as a result of the ‘defeat devices’. Germany, Poland, France and the Czech Republic will be hit hardest.

The “defeat devices” in 11 million Volkswagen diesel cars sold worldwide between 2008 and 2015 were designed to make it appear as though the cars were complying with environmental standards when, in fact, they were polluting nitric oxides at levels on average four times the European limit.

Although Volkswagen has since issued recalls of affected vehicles in both the US and Europe, MIT scientists argue that the excess emissions have already had an impact on public health. According to a new MIT study, the excess emissions generated by the 2.6 million affected cars sold in Germany over those seven years will lead to around 1,200 people in Europe dying early, each losing as much as a decade of their life.

Of those premature deaths, 500 will likely occur in Germany, meaning that over 60 per cent of the premature deaths stemming from the German-sold cars will occur in neighbouring countries, most notably Poland, France and the Czech Republic.

“Air pollution is very much transboundary,” said co-author and MIT professor Steven Barrett. “[Pollution] doesn’t care about political boundaries; it just goes straight past. Thus, a car in Germany can easily have significant impacts in neighbouring countries, especially in densely populated areas such as the European continent.”

According to the scientists, if Volkswagen can recall and retrofit affected vehicles to meet European standards by the end of 2017, this would avert 2,600 additional premature deaths and 4.1 billion Euros in corresponding health costs, which would otherwise be expected in the absence of a recall.

The team previously estimated that the excess emissions generated by 482,000 affected vehicles sold in the US will cause approximately 60 premature deaths across the US.


Image credit: Rob Brewer, flickr/Creative Commons

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