VW apologizes for testing diesel fumes on monkeys

A Volkswagen logo

The disclosures sparked widespread outrage, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel who strongly condemned the latest controversy to hit the nation's powerful but scandal-tainted auto industry.

On Monday Volkswagen said that some staff members, whom it did not identify, including some in its legal department, at the VW brand's technical development division and at Volkswagen of America, had been aware of the tests at the time.

The EUGT didn't do any study itself, but commissioned the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in New Mexico to perform a study where monkeys were kept in airtight chambers and inhaled fumes from a diesel-engined VW Beetle.

"These tests on monkeys and even humans are in no way ethically justifiable, " her spokesman, Steffen Seibert said in a government news conference.

Wire agency Agence France-Presse further cites a Sueddeutsche Zeitung report that says similar tests involving nitrogen dioxide were also conducted on about 25 healthy human beings.

"We are appalled by the extent of the studies and their implementation", Daimler said Monday in an emailed statement, adding it didn't have any influence over the study and promised an investigation.

In an additional twist, the VW Beetle model used in the test with animals was among the vehicles rigged to cheat on emissions tests, the New York Times reported.

"We believe the animal tests in this study were unnecessary and repulsive", Daimler said in a statement.

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In a statement, luxury carmaker BMW said it "did not participate in the mentioned studies".

Reuters could not immediately confirm the details of the study and a representative for EUGT, which was dissolved a year ago, could not be reached for comment.

Scientists from the Albuquerque-based LRRI used 10 cynomolgus macaque monkeys for the experiment - revelations in the story include the fact that the animals watched cartoons on televisions while they spent four hours breathing in the noxious fumes.

The researchers detected "no significant effects" from the inhaled nitrogen dioxide (NO2) - the most toxic form of nitrogen oxide and commonly found in diesel exhausts, according to a summary of the study published in 2016.

Politicians from across Germany's party spectrum scrambled to repudiate the studies.

Aachen University's research hospital confirmed on Monday that EUGT had sponsored a study in 2013 and 2014 but said it was related to workplace safety, not diesel emissions.

The VW group "must meet all ethical requirements" and those responsible should have to face the consequences, added Weil, whose state holds two seats on VW's supervisory board.

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