(Related to the Ethical Dilemma—“Volkswagen Suspends Top Lobbyist amid Inquiry into Diesel Tests on Monkeys”)

According to the article, no experiments on animals or humans can take place in Germany without a go from an authorized ethics committee. Dr. Thomas Kraus from Aachen University Hospital says this was the case in the most recent NO2 scandal.

The European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT) “did not impinge in any way on the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) research it commissioned Aachen University Hospital to do,” Professor Thomas Kraus from the hospital told the German press agency DPA recently.

The EUGT is a now defunct organization that was funded by German carmakers Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW plus partsmaker Bosch, thus raising questions of possible conflicts of interest.

In 2013, 25 healthy volunteers were exposed to NO2 pollution for three hours, Kraus said. “None of them had any negative health effects,” he went on, adding that the tests were meant to measure the impact of pollutants in the workplace.

Since 2010, an annual average of 40 micrograms NO2 per cubic meter of air must not be exceeded, according to EU regulations. Nonetheless, professional drivers and people who live or work on busy roads are particularly prone to suffer from heavy nitrogen oxide pollution, according to Kraus.

The ethics committee of Aachen University Hospital – a self-regulating body – consists of physicians, a lawyer with qualifications as a judge, a pharmacist, an ethicist and a patient representative. Most are employees of the university.

This kind of composition for university ethics committees is normal, Professor Bert Heinrichs, from the Institute for Science and Ethics at the University of Bonn, told DW. “The commission was completely independent in arriving at its decisions, in particular from those that financed the research,” he said.

“Ethics committees can impose their own conditions and refuse to do research, so there is no immediate dependency,” he said. “To the best of my knowledge, these commissions are very conscientious. The system of German ethics committees has proved itself in recent decades and is really a good and recognized one,” Heinrichs said.

In the case of these experiments, however, an air pollutant but no medically active substance was used on the subjects. “That makes the case a bit more complicated and it is therefore not comparable with a drug-compatibility study,” Heinrichs said.

“Of course, the doctor is a doctor and thus committed to the well-being of the patient, but in this specific situation he appears as a researcher – as a scientist. It is very important that he makes that clear to the subject.”

“The Aachen ethics committee would have had good reasons to accept the research project, but it was unusual that an environmental toxin would be tested on a human, even if a threat was very unlikely. Human trials are usually about drug trials. Of course, one wonders, was it really worth it?” Heinrichs asked.

For further information regarding Volkswagen’s alleged nitrogen dioxide tests on monkeys, please refer to the following article:

“German University Hospital Defends Auto Firms’ Nitrogen Dioxide Test Ethics”


(Related to the Ethical Dilemma—“Volkswagen Suspends Top Lobbyist amid Inquiry into Diesel Tests on Monkeys”)

According to the article, German carmakers have condemned experiments they paid for that exposed monkeys to toxic diesel fumes. VW also apologized for a lack of judgment in a further case connected to the Dieselgate emissions scandal.

German carmakers used the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT) to commission a study with the aim of defending the use of diesel, according to a recent report in The New York Times.

Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW provided all of the funding for the EUGT, which was established in Berlin in 2007 and disbanded in June 2017.

The Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI) in the US state of New Mexico was commissioned by the EUGT to design an experiment in which 10 monkeys squatted in airtight chambers, inhaling fumes from a diesel VW Beetle as cartoons were shown on a screen, according to The Times. The car used in the experiment was equipped with illegal cheating software, according to the report.

The EUGT research started in 2014 and was designed to counter a 2012 decision by the World Health Organization to classify diesel exhaust as a carcinogen, The New York Times reported.

“Volkswagen Group explicitly distances itself from all forms of animal cruelty. Animal testing contradicts our own ethical standards,” VW said in a statement issued recently. “We ask forgiveness for this bad behavior and for the poor judgment of some individuals.

“We are convinced that the scientific methods chosen at the time were wrong,” VW added. “It would have been better to forgo such a test from the very beginning.”

The findings of the study, which ended last year, have not been published, VW said.
The state of Lower Saxony, a major VW shareholder, issued a statement demanding full disclosure about the tests and assurances they never happen again.

“Letting 10 monkeys breathe in car emissions for hours to prove that there has been a reduction in the amount of poisonous emissions is horrid and absurd,” state Premier Stephan Weil said.
BMW said it did not carry out experiments involving animals and had taken no direct role in the study. “The BMW Group in no way influenced the design or methodology of studies carried out on behalf of the EUGT,” the Bavarian automaker said in a statement.

Daimler, which owns the Mercedes-Benz brand, distanced itself from the study and said it was carrying out a review to find out how the experiment had been commissioned.

“Daimler does not tolerate or support unethical treatment of animals,” the Stuttgart carmaker said. Such an experiment was abhorrent and superfluous, it added.

For further information regarding German automobile manufacturers’ alleged nitrogen dioxide tests on humans, please refer to the following article:

“VW, BMW and Daimler Denounce Toxic Diesel Fume Tests on Monkeys”