Volkswagen Dieselgate costs society 29 billion say scientists

04 February 2016 2 min. read
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Volkswagen’s tampering with its software, to give a considerably lower emission reading than on the road measure during testing, have resulted in €29 billion worth of damages to society. This is considerably more than the €5.5 billion the company has reserved for damages as a result of the scandal.

The €29 billion in public health damages is the conclusion of research performed by the Radboud University Nijmegen in relation to social consequences derived from Volkswagen’s fraudulent activity. As a result of the emissions testing fraud, considerably more noxious pollutants, particularly nitrogen oxide, were pumped into the air than legally permitted. According to the scientists, the extra emissions have resulted in the loss of 45,000 healthy life years globally, of which 44,000 in Europe.

Billion dollar consequences 
Through a calculation that associates the loss of healthy life years on the value of a human life, using a ‘value of statistical life' analysis, the experts come to a total loss of €29 billion. If Volkswagen does not recall the offending vehicles, and they are permitted to continue to pump out pollutants at above legally permitted levels, the total costs to society could reach €47 billion, warns their report.


The software used to commit fraud was found in nine million vehicles sold between 2009 and 2015 in Europe and the US. The vehicles released 526 kilotons more nitrogen oxide than was permitted. The negative consequences of the pollution is considerably greater in Europe where the majority of Volkswagens cars were sold, and where population density is considerably higher than in the US. The loss of healthy life years is a consequence of excess mortality (people dying earlier than they would otherwise) and the effect of diseases caused by the inhalation of fine particles from the extra emissions.

Europeans breath 95% of the damage
The health effect on Europeans is considerably starker than those on US citizen, notes Rik Oldekamp, one of the authors of the study, concluding that more than 95% of the damage to public health occurred in Europe.

Following the disclosure of Volkswagens emission testing tampering, environmental scientists at Radboud University sought to quantify the resultant environmental and social consequences. The results were published in the February edition of the scientific journal Environmental Pollution. This is the first scientific study into the impact of the fraud on Europe, while also confirming two earlier studies into the health effects performed in the US.