Nitrogen oxides pollution from cars with emissions cheating devices could mean some die a decade earlier

1200 people across Europe could die early as a result of excess nitrogen oxides emissions from 2.6 million cars sold by Volkswagen in Germany from 2008–2015, researchers have calculated.

The car manufacturer prompted a worldwide scandal in 2015 when it was caught fitting cars with devices that allowed them to cheat laboratory emissions tests while actually giving off four times the test limit of these pollutants.

Looking at affected cars sold in Germany under the VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat brands, a team led by Steven Barrett’s group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US has estimated that the pollution from their excess emissions could lead to 1200 people dying up to a decade earlier than they would have otherwise. Only 40% of these deaths are predicted to affect those living in Germany where the cars were made – the countries estimated to be most affected are Poland, France and the Czech Republic.

However, the team also says that if Volkswagen can recall the affected vehicles and repair them so that they meet European emissions standards by the end of this year, it could prevent 2600 additional premature deaths and €4.1 billion (£3.6 billion) in health costs across Europe.