MIT Study Checks Impact of Volkswagen Diesel Engine Emissions Scandal on Health

MIT Study Checks Impact of Volkswagen Diesel Engine Emissions Scandal on Health

Volkswagen management concealed the real emissions of its diesel vehicles sold in the United States and European markets and a new study conducted by MIT researchers has evaluated the impact of diesel vehicle emissions on public health. The research paper has based the findings on nearly 11 million diesel vehicles sold worldwide between year 2008 and 2015. As Volkswagen vehicles didn’t follow the environment protection rules and their emissions were higher than claimed by the company, the impact on public health has been estimated by MIT researchers.

Volkswagen has agreed to pay a massive fine and has also recalled vehicles in the United States. However, the company is still not facing any serious inquiry or charges in Europe. The MIT team had earlier estimated that excess emissions due to 482,000 diesel vehicles sold by Volkswagen in the United States would lead to 60 premature deaths across the country. The new report suggests that highest impact of Volkswagen vehicles on public health would be in Germany, France, Czech Republic and Poland. The study estimates nearly 1,200 premature deaths across Europe due to vehicles with fake emissions data, sold by Volkswagen.

The issue is not only limited to Volkswagen as recent reports have suggested that other automakers also installed software to cheat emissions testing. The issue hasn’t been inquired in detail at the moment and no other automaker has been charged yet.

European authorities are planning to have strict emissions rules after the Volkswagen scandal. The authorities are also planning to improve environment protection standards and will ensure that automakers comply with the rules in future.

The governments also need to push forward the vehicles running on alternative fuels. If governments support green technologies and electric vehicles, we can see faster improvement in environment. Electric vehicles account for just 1.2 percent of vehicles sold in the European Union as per 2015 data.

“Air pollution is very much transboundary,” says co-author Steven Barrett, the Leonardo-Finmeccanica Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT. “Pollution doesn’t care about political boundaries; it just goes straight past. Thus, a car in Germany can easily have significant impacts in neighboring countries, especially in densely populated areas such as the European continent.”

Barrett’s co-authors from MIT are lead author and graduate student Guillaume Chossière, postdoc Akshay Ashok, research assistant Irene Dedoussi, and research scientist Raymond Speth. Sebastian Eastham of Harvard University and Robert Malina of Hasselt University in Belgium are also co-authors.

Europe’s average population density is about three times higher than the U.S. average, and historical data has shown that diesel cars in Germany are driven on average 20 percent more, in terms of annual mileage, compared to the average American car that was considered in the U.S. study.

“It ends up being about a one percent extra risk of dying early in a given year, per microgram per meter cubed of fine particles you’re exposed to,” Barrett says. “Typically that means that someone who dies early from air pollution ends up dying about a decade early.”

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