Volkswagen Emissions Fraud Caused 60 Early Deaths: Study

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About 60 Americans have already died prematurely as a result of the ‘defeat device’ Volkswagen installed in nearly 500,000 diesel vehicles that were designed to trick emissions testing, according to a peer-reviewed study published in Environmental Research Letters.

What’s the problem?

November 2, 2015 – The study, published last Thursday, estimates that if affected vehicles are not recalled and fixed, about 140 people in the U.S. will eventually die as a result of Volkswagen’s fraud.

The research represents the first peer-reviewed study of the VW emissions scandal, whose estimates are notable both for their methodology and size. Previous calculations tallied by news organizations were rough estimates at best, as well as comparatively smaller:

  • The New York Times estimated 40 additional deaths in the U.S.;
  • Vox calculated between 5 and 27 deaths, and
  • The Associated Press approximated between 5 and 20 deaths.

The study also was the first to estimate medical costs attributed to Volkswagen diesels. Nitrous oxide (NOx) and particulate matter released by the vehicles caused about:

  • 30 additional cases of chronic bronchitis;
  • 120,000 restricted activity days;
  • 210,000 days of lower respiratory system functioning, and
  • 33,000 additional days of bronchodilator drug use

Researchers will likely next turn their attention to Europe, where diesel cars constitute a much larger percentage of vehicles on the road than in the U.S., according to Steven Barrett, a professor of aerospace and energy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“The U.K. alone has 1.2 million of these affected vehicles for example. That’s twice as many cars, and in a more densely populated country, so that suggests there are other countries beyond the U.S. worth looking into,” Barrett said.

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