Volkswagen accused of sponsoring toxic diesel fume testing on humans and monkeys

by Eric Pearson

German automaker Volkswagen has come under fire over allegations that it sponsored tests that exposed humans and monkeys to diesel exhaust fumes. Exposure to diesel car exhaust has been linked to a number of serious conditions, including asthma, lung disease, and heart attacks.

According to a report published by the New York Times, the German automaker sponsored tests in the United States in 2014 to test the effects of diesel fumes on laboratory monkeys. The newspaper reported that the moneys were locked inside an airtight compartment and made to breathe diesel fumes from a Volkswagen Beetle while watching cartoons.

In the wake of the New York Times allegations, two German newspapers also reported that Volkswagen sponsored diesel tests on human subjects. The two papers reported that the automaker conducted tests in which 25 healthy human subjects were made to breathe in nitrogen oxide (NOx), a toxic gas that is released in diesel exhaust fumes. The research subjects were forced to breathe nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – a highly toxic form of NOx found in diesel exhaust – over a period of several hours during the tests.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to nitrogen oxide can cause respiratory infections, reduce lung function, and worsen symptoms of bronchitis and asthma. The organization also says that nitrogen oxide exposure can also lead to premature mortality from heart disease or respiratory diseases.

These diesel tests were conducted by the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), a now-defunct research body that was sponsored by Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler.  The three automakers had funded studies at the EUGT – including the controversial diesel emissions tests – in order to help bolster their environmental claims about diesel cars and to obtain the lucrative tax breaks that these vehicles provided for the companies.

The allegations of NOx testing on humans and monkeys is the latest controversy involving diesel emissions for German automakers. In September 2015, Volkswagen admitted that it had installed cheat devices on 11 million diesel-powered vehicles in order to hide their excessive NOx emissions from drivers and regulators. Volkswagen later agreed to pay $14.7 billion to settle allegations of emissions cheating in the U.S. In the wake of the VW Dieselgate controversy, other automakers – including Mercedes Benz – have also faced allegations of diesel emissions cheating in the U.S.

Emissions Lawsuits Filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson

Lawsuits over diesel emissions cheating have been filed in the U.S. against several major automakers, including Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Chrysler, and General Motors. If you own or lease a vehicle involved in allegations of emissions cheating against one of these carmakers, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. The first step in taking legal action is to speak with an experienced attorney who can advise you regarding your legal rights.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed emissions cheating lawsuits against several major automakers, including Volkswagen, Audi, Chrysler, and General Motors. One of our partners, Michael Heygood, was a member of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee that helped to oversee the $14.7 billion settlement on behalf of VW and Audi owners affected by the Dieselgate scandal.

For more information about the emissions cheating lawsuits filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson – and to learn whether you may qualify to file a claim – contact our law office by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions to get started.

by Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P who handles commercial and personal injury lawsuits. Eric has been selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication.