It sounds unbelievable: Not only monkeys are said to have been exposed to pollutant tests. For VW and other manufacturers it could become uncomfortable.
VW probably missed a few stop signals with a study using nitrogen dioxides on healthy humans Photo: dpa
In the emissions scandal, diesel pollutant tests are said to have taken place not only with monkeys, but also with humans. This emerges from a report by the EUGT association, reported by Stuttgarter Zeitung (Monday) and Suddeutsche Zeitung. Around two and a half years after the start of the emissions scandal, new details are thus coming to light.
According to the reports, the European Research Association for Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), founded by the VW, Daimler and BMW groups, is said to have "sponsored a short-term inhalation study with nitrogen dioxide in healthy people." This is stated in a report published as an activity report for the years 2012 to 2015. According to the report, 25 people were examined at an institute of the University Hospital Aachen after they had inhaled nitrogen oxide (NO2) in different concentrations for several hours. According to the EUGT, which was dissolved in 2017, no effect was found.
However, Thomas Kraus, the head of the institute responsible, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung that the study published in 2016 was of limited value. For one thing, the findings could not be applied to the entire population, and for another, nitrogen dioxide was only part of the total air pollution.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is the pollutant whose measured values had been manipulated by VW in the U.S. for years in order to officially comply with the legal limits for diesel vehicles.
Daimler is "shocked
Previously, animal testing of diesel exhaust had sparked widespread outrage. They became known as a result of US investigations into the VW emissions scandal. Monkeys had been deliberately exposed to pollutants.
The tests with the monkeys were part of a study to prove that diesel pollution had decreased considerably thanks to modern exhaust gas purification. For this reason, the EUGT – the lobby initiative financed by VW, Daimler and BMW – had commissioned the study from the U.S. Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. According to the head of the study, VW was in the lead.
VW apologized over the weekend for the U.S.-based trials. "We are convinced that the scientific methodology chosen at the time was wrong. It would have been better to do without such an investigation from the outset," the group said on Saturday. Volkswagen clearly distances itself from all forms of animal cruelty, it said. "We apologize for the misconduct and misjudgment of individuals."
Automaker Daimler also explicitly distanced itself from the studies and EUGT. "We are shocked by the extent of the studies and their implementation," it said in a statement. Daimler condemned the experiments in the strongest possible terms. "Even though Daimler had no influence on the experimental set-up, we have launched a comprehensive investigation into how this could have happened."
Althusmann: animal testing "inexcusable"
In politics, meanwhile, calls are growing louder for the allegations to be clarified. Bernd Althusmann (CDU), Lower Saxony’s economics minister and a member of VW’s supervisory board, called the animal testing of diesel exhaust "absurd and inexcusable." Althusmann told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur that, in addition to a full explanation and a comprehensive report to the supervisory board, he expects "tough personnel consequences" for those responsible for these animal experiments.
The state of Lower Saxony is VW’s major shareholder. "To have ten monkeys wantonly inhale car exhaust fumes for hours to prove that pollution levels have supposedly decreased is disgusting and absurd," Lower Saxony’s Minister President and VW Supervisory Board member Stephan Weil (SPD) had said.
The emissions scandal had started rolling in September 2015. At that time, VW had admitted that it had manipulated emissions tests on millions of diesel vehicles. This had plunged Volkswagen into a serious crisis, the scandal has cost the group billions. Other carmakers have also been found to have deviated, in some cases drastically, from the emissions values on the test bench and on the road. New registrations of diesel vehicles have been on a downward trend for months.