Following allegations that German carmakers gassed caged monkeys to prove their diesel engines were clean, reports have emerged claiming the same foreign auto companies tested on humans, too.
Humans were exposed to the fumes during an experiment in 2013, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported Monday. The tests were reportedly backed by a now-defunct organization which was funded by Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz) and BMW.
It was previously reported that similar tests were allegedly carried out by the same group, which had tested caged monkeys in airtight gas chambers with diesel fumes.
The tests were conducted at Aachen University Hospital and focused on “short-term nitrogen dioxide inhalation by healthy people” who were then examined after inhaling the gas over the course of several hours.
Volkswagen Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch told Bloomberg that the practices were “incomprehensible.”
“I’ll do everything so that these events will be fully investigated,” he told the news outlet.
Following reports that monkeys were used for testing, Volkswagen Group said in a statement that the company “explicitly distances itself from all forms of animal cruelty,” which it claimed “contradicts our own ethical standards.”
Aachen University Hospital on Monday defended the tests, claiming that the study was used to examine whether exposure to nitrogen dioxide at a specific limit would cause biological effects.
Professor Thomas Kraus told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that 25 humans were exposed to the toxic chemical for three hours during the experiment and said “none of them had any negative health effects.”
The hospital said that “Extremely sensitive, non-invasive techniques were used to capture the biological response, in line with the best available methodology and based on years of development work.”
Revelations of the tests add a twist to the German auto industry’s attempt to move past Volkswagen’s scandal over cheating on diesel tests and the subsequent questioning of diesel technology across the industry.
German government officials condemned the reported tests on animals and humans. Transport Minister Christian Schmidt “has no understanding for such tests … that do not serve science but merely PR aims,” spokesman Ingo Strater told reporters in Berlin.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesperson said that “the disgust many people are feeling is absolutely understandable.”
“These tests on monkeys or even humans can in no way be ethically justified,” the spokesperson said. “They raise many critical questions for those behind these tests, and these questions must urgently be answered.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.