German carmakers VW, BMW and Mercedes are facing backlash following reports that they gassed humans to demonstrate that the engines of their diesel vehicles were clean.
According to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the car groups exposed humans to the fumes during an experiment in 2013. The now dismantled group European Research Group in Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT) reportedly carried out the task, which was funded by Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz) and BMW.
FOX News reports that the group performed similar tests on caged monkeys secluded in airtight gas chambers infused with diesel fumes. The human trials took place at Aachen University Hospital and centred on “short-term nitrogen dioxide inhalation by healthy people,” who inhaled the gas for several hours.
Volkswagen Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch told Bloomberg he thought the experiments were “incomprehensible” and that he would “do everything so that these events will be fully investigated.”
When news broke that monkeys were involved in the testing, Volkswagen Group explained in a statement that the company “explicitly distances itself from all forms of animal cruelty,” which it claimed contradicted its “ethical standards.”
BMW Group told Fox News that it “did not participate in the mentioned studies and distanced itself from the studies last week.” They added: “We have immediately initiated an internal investigation to thoroughly clarify the work and background of the EUGT.”
Daimler AG stated it “condemns … EUGT’s approach” because it “contradicts our values and principles.” They added, “Even though Daimler did not have an influence on the study’s design, we have launched a comprehensive investigation into the matter.”
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “the disgust many people are feeling is absolutely understandable.”
“These tests on monkeys or even humans can in no way be ethically justified,” the spokesperson added. “They raise many critical questions for those behind these tests, and these questions must urgently be answered.”
Meanwhile, Aachen University Hospital has defended its experiments. Two dozen healthy volunteers were exposed to NO2 pollution for three hours, according to Professor Thomas Kraus from the hospital. He noted, “None of them had any negative health effects” and added that the experiments were carried out to measure the impact of pollutants in the workplace.
The hospital noted that “extremely sensitive, noninvasive techniques were used to capture the biological response, in line with the best available methodology and based on years of development work.”
The disclosure of these experiments comes just over two years after Volkswagen was caught cheating on emissions tests. In 2017, a U.S. federal judge ordered VW to pay $2.8 billion in fines for rigging diesel-powered vehicles.