Volkswagen emissions could cause 200 British deaths – MIT, Harvard study

© David Gray
Volkswagen’s emissions scandal could cause 60 premature deaths in the next 20 years and kill up to 200 people if the vehicles involved are not quickly recalled, a study has warned.

The study by MIT and Harvard University published on Wednesday revealed that Volkswagen’s cheating of emissions tests could cost tax payers nearly £300 million in healthcare and social costs. 

In September, the German car manufacturer admitted installing software enabling vehicles to cheat emission tests in 11 million of its diesel cars worldwide.

It rigged diesel cars to pass environmental checks while emitting dangerous levels of pollution.

The emissions could cause 60 people to die prematurely in the next 20 years, and if the firm does not actively enforce the recall the number will rise to 200, according to the study.

Researchers found Volkswagen’s excess emissions could contribute directly to more than 31 causes of chronic bronchitis and 34 hospital admissions involving cardiac conditions.

Britons will also experience more than 120,000 minor restricted activity days, including work absences, the study found.

‘Number of early deaths in UK may be higher’

Lead author of the study Steven Barrett said the deaths would be much higher in the UK than the US.

We all have risk factors in our lives, and excess emissions [are] another small risk factor,” he told the Telegraph.

If you take into account the additional risk due to the excess Volkswagen emissions, then roughly 60 people have died or will die early, and on average, a decade or more early.

Considering the higher population density and significantly greater number of affected vehicles, it is possible the number of early deaths in the UK may be higher.

We do plan to do more research on the impact of the excess Volkswagen emissions in the UK and the rest of the EU.”

Barrett said if nothing is done to recall the vehicles, the excess emissions will cause a further 140 deaths.

However, two-thirds of the total deaths could be avoided if the recalls could be done quickly, in the course of the next year."

‘Corporate manslaughter’

Earlier this year, researchers at Kings College London found the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution is higher than previously thought.

Nearly 10,000 people died early in a single year as a result of long term exposure to air pollution in London, the researchers found.

Experts also said around 5,800 deaths in the UK can be linked to diesel emissions from vehicles.

On Wednesday, Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said a corporate manslaughter charge against Volkswagen may be considered if legal advice suggests it could be successful.

Certainly if it could be proven that a case like that could be brought then certainly that could be open,” he told the Independent.

The Volkswagen scandal has led to the recall of 1.2 million cars in Britain.

The company, which has been running for 69 years, is now facing an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for “corporate criminality.”

Earlier this week, VW reported its first quarterly loss for at least 15 years after covering the costs of its emissions scandal.

‘Lost trust’

The company said it aims to win back the trust they have lost.

The figures show the core strength of the Volkswagen Group on the one hand, while on the other the initial impact of the current situation is becoming clear,” Volkswagen’s chief executive Matthias Mueller told the BBC.

“We will do everything in our power to win back the trust we have lost.”