MIT Study Finds VW Emissions Could Cause 60 Premature Deaths

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Boston, MAAccording to a new study by researchers at MIT, Volkswagen's use of software, called VW defeat devices, to evade emissions standards in more than 482,000 diesel vehicles sold in the US, could contribute to 60 premature deaths across the country.

Done by researchers at MIT and Harvard University and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the study also estimates that excess emissions from VW vehicles, resulting from its illegally programmed defeat devices, will contribute directly to 31 cases of chronic bronchitis and 34 hospital admissions involving respiratory and cardiac conditions. They also calculate that individuals will experience about 120,000 minor restricted activity days, including work absences, and about 210,000 lower-respiratory symptom days.

However, given that these results are forward looking and that there are so many other factors that likely cannot be controlled for, these results could be hard to prove. That said, the thrust of the study is that these excess emissions will likely have significant effects on public health.

The paper’s lead author, Steven Barrett, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, says the new data may help regulatory officials better estimate the effects of Volkswagen's actions.
"It seemed to be an important issue in which we could bring to bear impartial information to help quantify the human implications of the Volkswagen emissions issue," Barrett said in a press release. "The main motivation is to inform the public and inform the developing regulatory situation."

In September, the Environmental Protection Agency discovered that VW had developed and installed "defeat devices" in light-duty diesel vehicles sold between 2008 and 2015. The devices are designed to get the vehicles through emissions tests by engaging the vehicle's full emissions-control system. The emissions controls systems would not be fully engaged during day to day driving. As a result, the vehicles emit 40 times more emissions than permitted by the Clean Air Act.

Volkswagen has announced a recall of around 500,000 diesel cars after the Environmental Protection Agency accused the carmaker of cheating to pass emissions testing. There is also a Canadian recall.

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