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Volkswagen under fire for testing diesel fumes on monkeys, humans

© Odd Andersen, AFP | The logo of German carmaker Volkswagen pictured at the company headquarters in Wolfsburg on March 14, 2017.

Video by Yena LEE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-01-29

German carmakers Volkswagen came under fire Monday following revelations they helped finance experiments that saw humans and monkeys exposed to toxic diesel fumes that have been linked to asthma, lung diseases and heart attacks.

The disclosures sparked widespread outrage, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel who strongly condemned the latest controversy to hit the nation’s powerful but scandal-tainted auto industry.

“These tests on monkeys or even humans are in no way ethically justified,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert.

“The indignation felt by many people is completely understandable.”

Earlier Monday the Sueddeutsche and Stuttgarter Zeitung dailies reported that a research group funded by Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW had measured the effects of inhaling nitrogen oxide gases on 25 healthy human beings at a German university hospital.

Reports said around 25 healthy young people inhaled nitrogen dioxide in varying doses over a period of hours at an institute belonging to Aachen University in Germany.

The revelation came just days after the New York Times wrote that the same organisation carried out tests on monkeys in the United States in 2014.

According to the newspaper article, 10 monkeys were locked in airtight chambers and left to watch cartoons as they breathed in diesel fumes from a VW Beetle.

“I will do everything possible to ensure that this matter is investigated in detail,” Volkswagen supervisory board Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch said in a statement.

“Whoever is responsible for this must of course be held accountable,” he added.

German carmakers used the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector, also known as EUGT, to commission the tests, the New York Times reported on Friday. The study, conducted in 2014, was designed to defend diesel following revelations that the fuel’s exhaust fumes were carcinogenic, the paper reported.

EUGT received all of its funding from Volkswagen, and fellow German carmakers Daimler and BMW, the New York Times said. It remains unclear whether the carmakers were aware of monkeys being used in the experiments.

Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW on Saturday denounced the study, whose revelation is the latest aftershock from the Volkswagen emissions-rigging scandal, which continues to rock the auto industry.

Stephan Weil, the Social Democratic state premier of Lower Saxony -- home to VW's Wolfsburg headquarters and one of the car group's biggest shareholders, said the board was pressing the carmaker to urgently provide information about what the aim of the studies was.

“At the end of the day, the purpose of such experiments is the decisive factor. If for example, safety and health in the workplace were being tested, as Aachen University has suggested, and ethical standards were adhered to, it is defensible,” Weil told a news conference on Monday.

“Where experiments served the purposes of marketing and sales, however, I cannot think of an acceptable justification for such an approach.”

Aachen University had no immediate comment.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2018-01-29

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