In Impact of excess NOx emissions from diesel cars on air quality, public health and eutrophication in Europe, published today in Environmental Research Letters, researchers from Norway, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands estimate that 5,000 early European deaths per year attributable to diesel emissions are caused by Volkswagen's Dieselgate crime, in which cars were designed to sneak lethal levels of toxic emissions past regulatory checks.
Europe suffers some 10,000 early deaths due to diesel emissions per year; half of those are the result of Volkswagen's cheating cars.
The deaths are not likely to decline until the haunted VW fleet is retired or patched.
The countries with the heaviest burden are Italy, Germany, and France, the team added, "resulting from their large populations and high share of diesel cars in their national fleets."
Touted as less polluting, the share of diesel cars in Europe rose fast compared to petrol since the 1990s, and now comprise about half the fleet.
There are more than 100 million diesel cars in Europe today, twice as many as in the rest of the world together, said the study authors.
Impact of excess NOx emissions from diesel cars on air quality, public health and eutrophication in Europe [J E Jonson et al/Environmental Research Letters]