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The Volkswagen Scandal and the Dangers of Nitrogen Oxides

It has been over a week since the massive scandal of Volkswagen’s “defeat devices” became public. Volkswagen admitted to installing over 480,000 US vehicles and 11 million worldwide with these devices that could detect when an emission test was being performed. During an emissions test, the device activated and reported pollutant readings below the legal limit. However, the real-world tests of VW vehicles showed discrepancies of up to 10 to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxides.

Nitrogen oxides are dangerous pollutants that are heavily regulated by the Clean Air Act and many organizations. They contribute to smog and other harmful effects on the environment such as particulate matter and ozone damage. Most troubling, nitrogen oxides are associated with a wide range of health problems in individuals. Exposure to nitrogen oxide has been linked to increased asthma attacks, other serious respiratory conditions, and cardiovascular disease. These dangerous effects have been shown in individuals suffering from previous respiratory conditions as well as healthy individuals.

Troublesome facts like these linked to nitrogen oxides have added to the immense criticism Volkswagen has received for their cheating scandal. Although the company has issued numerous apologies for their cheating, they still may face up to $18 billion in fines for their violation of the Clean Air Act and countless class action law suits. In addition, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has already resigned while the amount of employees involved in the scandal remains unclear.

Owners of the affected vehicles are outraged after the car they bought specifically for its environmentally friendly impact was actually doing the exact opposite. Although sales of affected vehicles have been halted across dealers, no VW cars have officially been recalled yet. Owners of the affected vehicles have been told to still drive their vehicles until further action by VW is taken.