A study done by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University has found that Volkswagen’s cheating on emissions tests could contribute to 60 premature deaths in the United States as a result of higher levels of toxins in the air.
The emission scandal has already put VW in extremely hot water. The company rigged its diesel engine vehicles in the United States with secret software just so they’d pass emissions tests — the vehicles would then revert to their normal spewing of unsafe levels of toxins into the air. VW touted and sold these vehicles as cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars, but instead simply subverted emissions tests of vehicles that actually badly polluted the environment.
According to the MIT and Harvard research, VW’s cars rigged with “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests will have pumped enough excess toxic pollution to contribute to premature deaths for about 60 persons in the U.S. by the end of 2016. Most of those persons already are dead, the study concluded.
The number of potential fatalities was determined by studying the degree of added pollution emitted in the U.S. by the 482,000 diesel cars VW sold here that were equipped with the defeat devices. The period of pollution measured was between 2008 and 2015.
The study projected that 60 additional deaths from auto pollution will occur in the U.S. by the end of 2016 due to the added pollution illegally emitted by the hundreds of thousands of VW vehicles having the defeat devices to subvert emissions tests.
Published in the Environmental Research Letters journal on Oct. 28, 2015, the study attributed 13% of premature deaths to ozone exposure and 87% to particulate pollution. It also concluded that a majority of the deaths have been on the West Coast and East Coast of the U.S.
The study multiplied the added pollution from the VW vehicles that had defeat devices and the estimated miles those cars would travel. It then took into account health risk factors, population distribution and nitrogen oxide movement in the atmosphere.
West Virginia University researchers say the secret software in VW’s diesel vehicles let them create 40 times more emissions than the level allowed by federal law. That’s a lot of cheating by Volkswagen.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. ozone and particulate pollution caused an estimated 164,300 premature deaths in 2010. The MIT and Harvard study determined how many additional deaths occurred due to emissions test-cheating VW vehicles.
The study also concluded that the estimated additional pollution due to VW’s rigged vehicles caused 34 hospital admissions for cardiac and respiratory issues, 31 cases of chronic bronchitis and 120,000 days in which persons had to limit physical activity due to such things. In all, it found a health cost of $910 million.
An additional 140 persons in the U.S. will die if the cheating VW cars remain on roadways, the study estimated. But if the vehicles are recalled by the end of the year 2016, 130 additional early deaths may be avoided and future expenses reduced by up to $840 million.
As for the global impact, that has not yet been estimated. This is concerning because far more VW diesel-engine vehicles have been sold outside the U.S. In fact, VW has admitted that about 11 million of its vehicles globally were rigged to avoid pollution standards.
It’s possible that the scope of the Volkswagen scandal could lead to VW emissions lawsuits. Anyone who believes they were victimized by the rigged and polluting VW vehicles may want to seek legal guidance. Notify a product liability lawyer or other legal professional at Jim Adler & Associates for a free legal evaluation to explore the merits of your case.