Volkswagen excess emissions could lead to 60 deaths in the US: study

According to research by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Institute of Technology, Volkswagen's rigging of its diesel cars to cheat on emissions tests could result in around 60 deaths in the US by the end of next year.

With software known as "defeat devices" Volkswagen's cars had emitted 40 times the amount of noxious nitrogen oxide (NOx) than the limit prescribed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, according to the report published yesterday.

"We all have risk factors in our lives, and [excess emissions] is another small risk factor," said Steven Barrett of MIT, one of the authors of the report, in a statement. "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."

According to the study, the healthcare sector would also be impacted, with "approximately 31 cases of chronic bronchitis, 34 hospital admissions, 120,000 minor restricted activity days, 21,000 lower respiratory symptom days, and 33,000 days of increased bronchodilator usage".

The study further estimated that the cost of these deaths to the economy was about $450 million, an amount that would increase to $910 million if the offending vehicles were not recalled.

Meanwhile Robert Goodwill, a UK transport minister, said that the option of pursuing a prosecution of corporate manslaughter could also be "open".

"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", The Telegraph reported.

However, the first study to evaluate the health impacts of the deception had shown the devastating human cost behind the scandal.

According to the study, the emissions were likely to cause the death of 60 people in the UK up to 20 years prematurely, and the number would increase to 200 if Volkswagen did not actively enforce the recall.

In addition to the increase in premature deaths, the researchers estimated that Volkswagen's excess emissions would contribute directly to over 31 cases of chronic bronchitis and 34 hospital admissions involving respiratory and cardiac conditions.