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German carmakers tested toxic exhaust fumes on humans and monkeys

Daimler, BMW, and Volkswagen are implicated in the scandal

German car manufacturers conducted experiments on humans and monkeys that involved the inhalation of toxic exhaust fumes.

German newspapers reported on Monday that Germany’s three major car manufacturers — Daimler, BMW, and Volkswagen — all encouraged a study that exposed young and healthy human volunteers to nitrogen dioxide, a common traffic emission. Subjects were examined for side effects after inhaling the gas.


The EPA says that inhaling nitrogen dioxide can “aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing), hospital admissions and visits to emergency rooms.” A researcher has acknowledged the existence of the tests but noted that the subjects were submitted to levels of the gases found in typical environments. The experiments did not seem to produce any damaging effects.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Volkswagen conducted separate tests in 2015 that locked monkeys in airtight chambers inside which they were exposed to diesel fumes from a VW Beetle while they watched cartoons.

In a separate test, the monkeys were forced to breathe in fumes from a Ford F-250. The goal was to show the effectiveness of Volkswagen’s cleaning technology when diesel fuel is used in comparison to other car manufacturers’. The other two manufacturers denied involvement with the study that used monkeys.

Volkswagen blamed the tests on the mistakes of a few individuals within the company. Volkswagen is already under intense scrutiny over its “dieselgate” scandal. The company fudged figures on some 11 million of its cars to show that they met emissions standards, when they in fact did not.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the tests. "These tests on monkeys or even humans cannot be justified ethically in any way," she said through a spokesman.

Cover: Exhaust pipes hang from the underside of a VW Tiguan automobile at the end of the production line at the Volkswagen Group Rus OOO plant in Kaluga, Russia, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images)