By on January 29, 2018

Exhaust pipe of running vehicle, Image: By Ruben de Rijcke (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Over the weekend, we reported that German automakers funded research where monkeys were exposed to diesel exhaust fumes from an emissions-cheating VW Beetle. Volkswagen Group, Daimler and BMW all condemned the study — claiming to be appalled by the logistics employed for research they were funding.

Apparently, the situation is a little darker than we first thought. In addition to gassing 10 monkeys, the group hired by automakers to prove the worth of diesel was also testing on human beings. The European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT) had 25 people inhaling a gaseous byproduct of diesel combustion at a clinic used by the University of Aachen in 2016.

On Monday, German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung expanded on EUGT’s unsavory research practices — claiming it not only exposed animals to exhaust gases, but people as well. The German government is up in arms over the revelation. “These tests on monkeys or even humans cannot be justified ethically in any way,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, on her behalf.

Social Democrat Stephan Weil, who also happens to be a VW supervisory board member, called the testing “absurd and abhorrent … Lobbying can be no excuse whatsoever for such testing.”

Unlike the exhaust testing on monkeys, specific details on the human experiment are quite a bit lighter. While subjects were exposed to the irritant gas nitrogen dioxide (which is prevalent in diesel exhaust), exactly how remains unspecified. The 25 subjects are believed to all have been young adults in good health and were exposed to various concentrations of the gas for several hours at a time at a facility run by Aachen University.

Automakers are, once again, in the position of having to explain the matter. Daimler condemned the research, saying it had no say in establishing how EUGT conducted itself. “We are appalled by the extent of the studies and their implementation,” a spokesperson said. Daimler previously mentioned it would conduct an investigation into the group’s decisions.

Volkswagen has also distanced itself from the research, saying it will look into the situation. However, as the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector was basically asked by German automakers to counter a 2012 decision by the World Health Organization to classify diesel exhaust as a carcinogen, they hold some of the blame. How much blame is yet to be decided; all three have claimed to have limited knowledge of the group’s proceedings.

That’s not good enough for the growing number of outraged politicians. Many, like Stephan Weil, are demanding automakers immediately provide details on what the goals of these types of exhaust studies were.

“At the end of the day, the purpose of such experiments is the decisive factor. If for example, safety and health in the workplace were being tested, as Aachen University has suggested, and ethical standards were adhered to, it is defensible,” Weil told a news conference on Monday. “Where experiments served the purposes of marketing and sales, however, I cannot think of an acceptable justification for such an approach.”

[Image: Ruben de Rijcke/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

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25 Comments on “Not Just Monkeys: German Automakers Also Sponsored Diesel Emissions Experiments on Humans...”

  • avatar
    The ultimate family-friendly hybrid vehicle is finally here.

    The last thing Germany needs is modern-day headlines about people being gassed.

    On the other hand, Phillip-Morris, now ignominiously renamed “Altria”, knowingly did the same thing for many decades, one toxic carbon monoxide producing addictive cancer stick at a time. And still does.

  • avatar

    Every 20-something named Cody in a bro-dozer tests diesel fumes on human beings.

    • 0 avatar

      Interestingly enough, though, they always seem to put that smoke behind them for everyone else to breathe…but never breathe it themselves. Imagine that.

    • 0 avatar

      In a closed room? No, it doesn’t say these experiments were conducted indoors, but I find it hard to believe they were done outside where the gasses could dissipate pretty quickly.

      I’m not defending those that do it, just pointing out that its not remotely the same as being exposed in a closed environment.

      • 0 avatar

        in the Netflix documentary on this “Dirty Money” Ep1, it was in a closed room while on a stationary bicycle.

        The people were exercising while inhaling the exhaust.

  • avatar
    Hoon Goon

    Better than Zyklon-B I guess.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    About as bad as leaking heat exchangers on a Type I Beetle giving passengers a nice woozy feeling.

  • avatar

    Let me see if I get this straight – German car companies sponsored a German organization that gassed people?

    The experiments alone are insanely bad. That the experiments were done by GERMANS is next-level insanely bad.

  • avatar

    So it’s more palatable when the EPA does it?

  • avatar

    Netflix just released Dirty Money and the first episode was on the VW diesel scandal, VW history with diesel and also included this story – humans and monkeys being tested for affects of exposure to exhaust fumes. Bertel Schmitt was part of the program and was interesting to get his take as he used to work for VW.

    Regarding Daimler, BMW and VW not knowing this testing was occurring, well, it comes across like Sgt. Schultz saying he knew nothing. It’s just not believable.

    • 0 avatar

      I watched that on Friday, along with the Payday loan episode. I was open to maybe buying another VW before watching it, but now, nope. It was neat to actually hear Bertel talk…I didn’t expect to see him. I feel kind of bad for Stuart Johnson. Definitely don’t feel bad for Oliver Schmidt.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they simply checked out the lungs of some of those fine southern gentlemen that routinely stick their heads over the stacks of their buddy’s coal rolling trucks. They would have submitted to all the x-rays they could want for a fiver.

  • avatar
    George B

    Why do this experiment? There’s no way to ethically risk damage to human lungs in this way. It’s not like they can cut open the lungs of a human test subject and examine the effects afterward either.

    • 0 avatar

      they were doing it to counter claims that the emissions were unhealthy. they set up a “phony” non-profit, funded by German auto manufacturers + Bosch, to help disprove CARB results

  • avatar

    For you, Fritz, ze war ist overrr!

  • avatar
    Mike G

    In the 1970s the Germans ran automobile crash tests with live humans, using prisoners who had volunteered in exchange for reduction of their sentences.

    You’d think with their national history they would avoid such activities.

  • avatar

    German automakers seek final solution to diesel problem.

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