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Volkswagen’s rigging of emissions tests for 11 million cars may be responsible for up to nearly a million tons of air pollution a year worldwide, according to a Guardian analysis.

Amid news of the resignation of Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen’s executive board plans to meet Wednesday to discuss the scandal and to agree on the agenda of a full board meeting scheduled for Friday.

The Guardian explains:

The carmaker has recalled 482,000 VW and Audi brand cars in the U.S. after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found models with Type EA 189 engines had been fitted with a device designed to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) under testing conditions.

A Guardian analysis found those U.S. vehicles would have spewed between 10,392 and 41,571 tonnes of toxic gas into the air each year, if they had covered the average annual U.S. mileage. If they had complied with EPA standards, they would have emitted just 1,039 tonnes of NOx each year in total.

The company admitted the device may have been fitted to 11m of its vehicles worldwide. If that proves correct, VW’s defective vehicles could be responsible for between 237,161 and 948,691 tonnes of NOx emissions each year, 10 to 40 times the pollution standard for new models in the US. Western Europe’s biggest power station, Drax in the UK, emits 39,000 tonnes of NOx each year.

New York and other state attorney generals are forming a group to investigate the scandal, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman said, adding to a series of investigations in the US, Europe and Asia that threaten to sap Volkswagen’s resources and impose large penalties.

In the U.S., just 3% of passenger cars are diesel compared with almost half in the EU. Prof Martin Williams of King’s College London said the U.S.’s low percentage of diesel cars meant higher diesel emissions in some cars would have a “limited effect” on air quality there.

“[In the U.S. it would be] nowhere near the effect it would have in [the U.K] and in the rest of Europe for that matter,” he said. In the U.K., Williams added, emissions from diesel cars cause roughly 5,800 premature deaths each year. “If you were to make the cars emit at the legal limit you could reduce those deaths by at least a factor of two and maybe more. Maybe a factor of five.”

Read more here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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