Pollution from 2.6 million Volkswagen cars sold in Germany between 2008 and 2015, manipulated to seem less polluting than they were, will cause 1,200 premature deaths in Europe, a study into the health impacts of the fraud said Friday.
"The researchers estimate that 1,200 people in Europe will die early, each losing as much as a decade of their life, as a result of excess emissions generated," said the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which took part in the study.
Of these, an estimated 500 deaths will occur in Germany and the rest in neighbouring countries, including Poland, France and the Czech Republic, according to findings published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
The same team of researchers had previously estimated that excess emissions from 482,000 Volkswagens sold in the United States would cause 60 premature American deaths.
Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to having installed software in 11 million diesel engines worldwide to circumvent emissions tests.
This was to make the cars seem compliant with pollution limits while in fact they were emitting health-harming pollutants.
In Germany, 2.6 million Volkswagens were sold under the brands VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat, said the researchers.
Air pollution "doesn't care about political boundaries; it just goes straight past," the statement quoted study co-author Steven Barrett of MIT as saying.
"Thus a car in Germany can easily have significant impacts in neighbouring countries, especially in densely populated areas such as the European continent."
If Volkswagen could recall and retrofit all affected German-sold vehicles by the end of 2017, "this would avert 2,600 additional premature deaths and 4.1 billion euros in corresponding health costs," said the authors.