FRANKFURT MAIN: German carmakers came under fire on 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 engulf 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 in the day, 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.
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 NYT article, the researchers locked 10 monkeys into airtight chambers and made them breathe in diesel exhausts from a VW Beetle while watching cartoons.
Volkswagen apologised for the animal testing at the weekend, saying the group “distances itself clearly from all forms of animal abuse”.
The German government has called a special meeting with the affected car companies to ask them to explain themselves, said acting transport minister Christian Schmidt. “This has once again damaged trust in the auto industry,” he said.
It was VW’s admission in 2015 that it had manipulated 11 million diesel cars with cheating software to make them seem less polluting than they were that brought close scrutiny to the industry, which had long touted diesels as better for the environment than gasoline-powered engines.
Several German cities grappling with air pollution are now mulling diesel bans.
Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2018