Dieselgate: Emissions cheating on vehicles could cause 5,000 deaths a year in Europe

Emissions from vehicles fixed by their manufacturers to appear more ecologically sound than they really are, could be responsible for 5,000 deaths per year from air pollution in Europe, notes a study published on Monday in the Environmental Research Letters magazine.

These figures are in line with earlier estimates of the number of deaths from the Dieselgate scandal that erupted when Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that it had cheated on emissions tests on its vehicles. Since then, many other carmakers have been suspected of doing the same.

The new study focuses on the situation in Europe – the 28 European Union (EU) countries, plus Norway and Switzerland. The researchers, based in Norway, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands, calculated that about 10,000 deaths could be attributed each year in Europe to pollution by fine particles given off by diesel-powered, light vehicles. Nearly half of these deaths (about 4,750) could have been avoided if the amounts of nitrogen oxide (NOᵪ) given off by these vehicles had been the same as when they had been tested in laboratories.

Volkswagen admitted that it installed in its vehicles illegal systems that reduced the emissions just for the duration of the tests.

If the diesel vehicles gave off similar amounts of NOᵪ as vehicles that use gas, about 4,000 of these almost 5,000 premature deaths could have been avoided, the study’s authors say.

The countries with the highest number of deaths are Italy, Germany and France, “because of their population size and the high percentage of diesel cars,” according to the authors of the study.

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