Weekend Post (South Africa)

Pollution from rigged cars will kill 1 200 – study


POLLUTION from 2.6 million Volkswagen cars sold in Germany between 2008 and 2015, rigged to appear eco-friendly, will cause 1 200 premature deaths in Europe, a study of the fraud’s health impacts said yesterday.

“The researcher­s estimate that 1 200 people in Europe will die early, each losing as much as a decade of their life, as a result of excess emissions generated,” the Massachuse­tts Institute of Technology, which took part in the study, said.

This correspond­ed to about ß1.9- billion (R26-billion) in health costs and lost labour productivi­ty, the paper said.

Germany will account for about 500 lives lost, only 40% of the projected European toll, according to findings published in the journal Environmen­tal Research Letters.

Poland is in second place with 160 deaths, followed by France with 84, the Czech Republic with 72, Italy 55, Austria 47, Switzerlan­d 40, Hungary 32, Britain 30 and Romania 27.

The same researcher­s had previously estimated that excess emissions from 482 000 Volkswagen­s sold in the United States in the same period would cause 60 premature American deaths.

Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to having installed software in 11 million diesel engines worldwide to circumvent emissions tests.

This was to make the cars seem compliant with pollution limits, while in fact they were emitting health-harming pollutants.

In Germany, 2.6 million rigged Volkswagen­s were sold under the brands VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat, the researcher­s said -- a fifth of the country’s diesel fleet.

Diesel cars emit nitrogen oxides, or NOx – poisonous gases that contribute to acid rain and combine with ammonia to create particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause cancer, chronic breathing problems and premature death.

Air pollution “doesn’t care about political boundaries; it just goes straight past”, study co-author Steven Barrett of MIT said.

“Thus a car in Germany can easily have significan­t impacts in neighbouri­ng countries, especially in densely populated areas such as the European continent,” he said in a statement. – AFP

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