According to a rather controversial study led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) the use of the emission cheat software by Volkswagen in over 482,000 vehicles in the U.S. could cause 60 premature deaths.
Researchers used the values of the excess amount of pollution and multiplied it by the number of Volkswagen diesel vehicles sold in the U.S., crossing these numbers with the population distribution and several health risk factors all over the country.
“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. The main motivation is to inform the public and inform the developing regulatory situation,” said Steven Barrett from MIT, lead author of the study, on the press release.
They based the predictions with measurements made on vehicles, discovering that they produced up to 40 times the allowed amount of pollution. Calculating an average “driving-life” of the vehicle, they estimated the possible number of pollution released by the car.
After that, the researchers drew three possible scenarios: the current one, with 482,000 vehicles in the streets; the ideal one, with Volkswagen recalling all vehicles by 2016, and the last and worse scenario of all, with all these affected vehicles being contaminating as long as they stay functional.
Finally, they developed maps that show the people’s exposure to the pollution agents released from the car, taking into account the atmosphere and damages to the Ozone layer.
The harsh result
The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, says that these devices that fail to regulate the pollution released by the vehicles could cause 60 people die 10 to 20 years earlier than the estimated.
Researchers state that if Volkswagen recalls every “defectuous” vehicle by the end of the next year, more than 130 additional early deaths could be avoided. On the other hand, if the automaker doesn’t recall them, these emissions could cause the early death of 140 people in the U.S.
“We all have risk factors in our lives, and (excess emissions) is another small risk factor. 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,” Barrett insists.
Additional to these possible deaths, they estimate that Volkswagen’s vehicles will contribute in a direct way to 31 cases of chronic bronchitis, as 34 hospitalized patients suffering from cardiac and respiratory conditions.
Moreover, researchers even calculated that “Individuals will experience about 120,000 minor restricted activity days, including work absences, and about 210,000 lower respiratory symptom days,” as it shows in the press release from the MIT.
In the end, they calculate that these Volkswagen’s excess emissions will generate over $450 million in expenses and social costs, saying if the vehicle recall do takes place, the savings will be of $840 million by the end of 2016.
Health over business
Countries like England and Australia are asking for the review of these vehicles and how they are tested, and even to ban them from the streets, as it was requested by the Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly, according to BBC UK.
Nevertheless, these measures could have a serious economic impact, requiring further discussion and analysis. Studies, such as this from the MIT, contribute to the public debate, although many people may call it “inaccurate.” What it is accurate, is that the Volkswagen scandal is not even near to be solved.