— While attorneys and governments target Volkswagen, Chrysler, General Motors and other automakers over excess nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel vehicles, researchers discovered problems with all diesel vehicles on the roads.
Published by the science journal, Nature, a new study says overall, nitrogen oxide emissions contributed to 107,600 premature deaths in 2015 and emissions above legal standards will contribute to 38,000 premature deaths worldwide each year, a number that includes more than 1,000 people in the U.S.
Researchers from the International Council on Clean Transportation and Environmental Health Analytics looked at 30 emissions studies conducted under real-world driving conditions in 11 markets that represent 80 percent of new diesel vehicle sales in 2015. Those locations are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea and the U.S.
In those location and just in 2015 alone, diesel vehicles emitted 13.1 million tons of nitrogen oxides, but if the vehicles would have met standards, that number would have dropped to about 8.6 million tons.
Consumer vehicles weren't the largest problem as commercial trucks and buses accounted for 76 percent of total nitrogen oxide emissions. China, India, the EU, Brazil and the U.S. together contribute 90 percent of excess nitrogen oxides from commercial vehicles. However, cars, trucks and SUVs were still throwing out emissions in real-world driving much higher than in lab tests, and all manufacturers are guilty.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder say Volkswagen's emissions problems are no where near as severe as what occurs each day from vehicles made by every diesel manufacturer.
Blaming the problem on inefficient test methods and lousy maintenance, researchers say if things stay on the same road they're on, by 2040 more than 183,000 people will die prematurely every year because of nitrogen oxide emissions if the world's governments don't step in and make changes.
Researchers advise emissions certification tests should mimic what vehicles do on the roads by simulating a variety of speeds, driving styles and temperature ranges. Tests like this are possible by using portable testing machines that test emissions levels as vehicles are traveling on various roads.
According to the study, living in China won't be the best idea if you have health problems because more than 31,000 deaths per year are attributed to nitrogen oxide emissions, with 10,700 of those deaths related to emissions beyond legal vehicle certification levels.
However, more people (11,500) will die each year in Europe for nitrogen oxide emissions above certification levels, while more than 28,000 deaths annually are attributed to total nitrogen oxide pollution.
The study follows previous studies conducted by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one from 2015 that found illegal Volkswagen emissions could prematurely end the lives of 59 people in the U.S.
Then in 2017, those same researchers estimated about 1,200 people in Europe will die prematurely by as much as a decade due to Volkswagen's illegal nitrogen oxide emissions that were emitted between 2008 and 2015.