Volkswagen AG’s pollution test cheating has been considered rather harmless on the short run, but a report coming from the Associated Press says in recent years between five and 20 people were victims of the pollution chicanery.
The issue lies with the company’s way of cheating: the software used by VW to dupe emissions testing procedures closed all emission control systems during real-life conditions, thus triggering the emission of up to 40 times the legal level of harmful pollutants. And that’s enough to have caused around 16 to 94 deaths over the seven years the defeat device was used, though the annual figure might be higher in recent years as the group sold more diesels in the US. And the total cost was of well over $100 million, in the US alone. The tally is far likely to be even deadlier and costlier in Europe, where VW sells the bulk of its diesel-powered autos. According to scientists and experts the fatality count could reach hundreds of lives annually on VW’s home continent – even as they caution the American health and air quality computer models are not easily translated to the densely populated Europe.
“Statistically, we can’t point out who died because of this policy, but some people have died or likely died as a result of this,” comments Carnegie Mellon environmental engineer professor Peter Adams, as he uses a sophisticated computer model to factor the cost of air pollution. VW’s software increased between 10 and 40 times the level of nitrogen oxides (NOx) spewed in the atmosphere – this mostly causes smog but also delivers a deadly problem, an increase in the tiny particles of soot. Medical studies show this can deliver around 50,000 deaths a year in the United States, mostly due to heart conditions.