Germans shocked as report says carmakers tested diesel fumes on monkeys, humans

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday led politicians and business leaders in condemning German carmakers’ unethical emissions testing on monkeys and even humans, local media reports say.

The health impact test was done as requested by the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector, (EUGT), a defunct lobby initiative founded by Volkswagen, Daimler, BM and parts supplier Bosch.

Merkel said the advisory boards of those who commissioned the test must explain the experiment and its goals.

Volkswagen apologised at the weekend after reports that it had forced monkeys to inhale engine fumes as part of an experiment in the US to prove the emissions were safe. Humans too were exposed to nitrogen dioxide fumes in the experiment between 2012 and 2015, according to the Stuttgarter and Sueddeutsche newspapers.

The experiments focused on “short-term nitrogen dioxide inhalation by healthy people,” according to the newspapers. An Aachen-based university hospital then examined 25 people after they inhaled varying amounts of the gas over several hours.

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said she was horrified by the news.

The auto industry and the scientific community must explain their role. That an entire industry has apparently tried to conceal dubious methods of scientific research makes it even more monstrous, she said.

German Transport Minister Christian Schmidt too condemned the tests.

Bernd Althusmann, ex-officio member of Volkswagen supervisory board and also economy minister in the state of Lower Saxony, home to the German company, said the onus is now on those behind these “stupid and foolish” tests by various carmakers. There must be no cover-up or downplaying. All facts should be laid bare, he said.

The tests were carried out by the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute and Volkswagen was the main client for the contract, according to people who led the study.

In 2015, it was reported that Volkswagen had manipulated the readings of nitrogen dioxide in its cars for years in the US to get the vehicles pass diesel emission regulations.

Lower Saxony is a major shareholder in the company. The state announced on Saturday that its representatives would seek a full explanation for the 2014 experiment at an upcoming committee meeting.

In the meantime, the head of Volkswagen’s advisory board, Hans Dieter Poetsch, said the tests were not at all reasonable adding he would do everything to ensure that the procedure is thoroughly investigated.