Volkswagen's use of a software to dodge emissions standards in over 482,000 diesel vehicles sold in the US will directly contribute to 60 premature deaths across the country, a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) led study claims.
In September, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered that the German automaker had developed and installed "defeat devices" in its light-duty diesel vehicles sold between 2008 and 2015.
This software was designed to sense when a car was undergoing an emissions test, and only then engage the vehicle's full emissions-control system, which would otherwise be disabled under normal driving conditions - a cheat that allows the vehicles to emit 40 times more emissions than permitted by the Clean Air Act.
That amount of excess pollution, multiplied by the number of affected vehicles sold in the US and extrapolated over population distributions and health risk factors across the country, will have significant effects on public health, the study said.
According to the study, conducted by researchers at MIT and Harvard University, excess emissions from Volkswagen's defeat devices will cause around 60 people in the US to die 10 to 20 years prematurely.
In addition to the increase in premature deaths, the researchers estimate that Volkswagen's excess emissions will contribute directly to 31 cases of chronic bronchitis and 34 hospital admissions involving respiratory and cardiac conditions.
The study was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.