Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler have financed tests exposing humans and monkeys to dangerous gases.
Just days after the New York Times revealed monkeys were being forced to inhale diesel fumes by a research group funded by Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler (the owner of Mercedes) to test health effects, shocking new details have emerged.
It is understood 25 healthy human beings were also used as subjects, by the same group, to document the consequences of inhalation of nitrogen oxide gases.
They were reportedly exposed to toxic exhaust chemicals for hours at a time in an attempt to prove they were not carcinogenic between 2012 and 2015.
The Sueddeutsche and Stuttgarter Zeitung newspapers reported this on Monday after the Times had earlier revealed that researchers locked 10 monkeys into airtight chambers and made them breathe in diesel exhausts from a VW Beetle while watching cartoons.
The tests were commissioned by the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), a now-defunct institute established by the three car makers and parts supplier Bosch, and conducted by the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Barbara Hendricks, the German environment minister, described the experiments as “abominable”, while a spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “These tests on monkey and humans cannot be justified ethically in any way… The outrage felt by many people is completely understandable.”
Automakers attempt to distance themselves from controversy
All three companies have denounced the testing, however a researcher involved in the experiments said the car-makers were aware of their existence but had no say over them.
“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.”
Daimler said that all work commissioned with the EUGT was “accompanied and reviewed by a research advisory committee consisting of scientists from renowned universities and research institutes”.
“We are appalled by the nature and extent of the studies and their implementation. We condemn the experiments in the strongest terms,” it added.
Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute confirmed Monday that it had conducted the experiments but the research wasn’t published because they had been compromised when Volkswagen admitting to its ‘diesel dupe’ in 2015.
The auto-maker had rigged millions of diesel cars worldwide with software (known as the ‘defeat device’) that enabled its vehicles to pass emissions tests despite its engines emitting nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the United States.