A new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters claims that as many as 1200 people in Europe could die prematurely because of the pollution caused by 2.6 million Volkswagen cars that have been sold between 2008 to 2015 in Germany.
Of these 1200 premature deaths, as many as 500 deaths could happen in Germany alone meaning that more than 60 per cent premature deaths will happen in Germany’s neighbouring countries including Poland, France and the Czech Republic. Previous estimates had pegged the total number of premature deaths from excess emissions generated by 482,000 affected vehicles at 60 across the US.
With the new study scientists have examined the adverse health impacts of the emissions generated from the 2.6 million affected cars sold in Germany under Volkswagen Group’s various brands including VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat.
The findings are startling considering that the impact of the excess emissions in Germany will be felt by people in the neighbouring countries. Scientists point out that there is no geographical limitation for air pollution and that the excess emissions of cars in Germany can easily have significant impacts in neighbouring countries, especially in densely populated areas such as the European continent.
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, or 29,000 life years lost, and 4.1 billion Euros in corresponding health costs, which would otherwise be expected in the absence of a recall, researchers said.
It all started when in September 2015, Volkswagen admitted to having installed “defeat devices” in 11 million diesel cars sold worldwide between 2008 and 2015. These defeat devices were designed to detect and adapt to laboratory tests, making the cars appear to comply with environmental standards when, in fact, they emitted pollutants called nitric oxides (NOx) at levels that were on average four times the applicable European test-stand limit. While Volkswagen has issued recalls of affected vehicles in the US and Europe, scientists have found the excess emissions has already had an impact on public health.