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MIT Study Expects Volkswagen Recall to Cause Premature Deaths

3/9/17 8:52 AM

It's been two years since the German automaker, Volkswagen, admitted to installing "defeat" devices in 11 million cars worldwide. The revelation had immediate impacts on drivers and dealers around the world, but we now know the impact it will have on public health. According to a recent paper published by scientists at MIT, the diesel cars sold between 2008 and 2015 will cause the premature deaths of more than a thousand people across the globe.

The "defeat" devices were designed to make the cars appear to emit lower levels of nitrogen oxide during laboratory testing than normal driving conditions to comply with environmental standards. Earlier this year, Volkswagen plead guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay more than $4 billion for the software that allowed cars to emit nitrogen oxide up to 40 times above the legal limit.

Previously, the MIT team estimated the excess emissions generated by the 482,000 affected cars sold in the U.S. will cause about 60 premature deaths. But new research done closer to Volkswagen's home base reveals way worse news for not only Germany, but all of Europe. Researchers estimate that 1,200 people in Europe will die early, each losing as much as a decade of their life. Of the 1,200 premature deaths researchers say 500 would occur in Germany, 160 in Poland, 84 in France and 72 in the Czech Republic.

Researchers say there are several factors that drove up the number premature deaths in Europe compared to the U.S. In Germany alone, the average population density is three times higher than the U.S. and diesel cars are driven about 20% more. With 2.6 million affected cars on the road there, more people are being exposed to the harmful emissions.

Neighboring countries to Germany are greatly affected because the wind carries the nitrogen oxide over long distances before it reacts with ammonia in the air to form fine particulates. Exposure to these particulates has been shown to cause cardiopulmonary and respiratory disease.

Although the damage is already done, researchers say if Volkswagen can fix the all of the recalled vehicles in Europe by the end of the year an additional 2,600 premature deaths would be avoided. That adds up to 4 billion Euros in health costs, which would be expected if it wasn't for the recall.

MadgeTech offers an easy solution for verifying compliance with diesel emissions regulations. MadgeTech data loggers are deployed to gain a complete temperature profile of the vehicle to determine which particulate filter should be used. To view all of the data logging solutions for monitoring diesel emissions, click here.

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