About 60 Americans have already died prematurely as a result of the “defeat devices” that Volkswagen installed in 500,000 cars to avoid federal pollution requirements. If the cars are not recalled, turned in, and adequately fixed, about 140 people will eventually die in the United States as a result of the car manufacturer’s malfeasance.
Those numbers are according to the first peer-reviewed study of the phenomenon, which was published Thursday in Environmental Research Letters, an open-access journal. Its estimates are notable not only for their methodology, but also for their size. All previous estimates of the defeat device’s consequences were conducted back-of-the-envelope by news organizations, and they were all comparatively smaller: The New York Times estimated 40 additional deaths in the U.S., Vox calculated between five and 27 deaths, and the Associated Press approximated to between five and 20.
Steven Barrett, a professor of aerospace and energy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the equivalent costs of Volkswagen’s pollution came to about $450 million over the period the cars were sold. Eventually, the cars could cost Americans an additional $910 million. But there is some good news.