'If the people who were responsible at the time are still on board, then personnel consequences must be considered,' insist Volkswagen board members. File picture: Fabian Bimmer / Reuters.

Frankfurt, Germany - Members of Volkswagen's supervisory board are calling for an inquiry into tests in which monkeys were exposed to toxic diesel fumes.

The New York Times reported on Friday that German carmakers had used the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector, also known as EUGT, to commission the study, which was designed to defend diesel following revelations that the fuel's exhaust fumes were carcinogenic.

EUGT, which was dissolved in 2017,  received all of its funding from Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW, the New York Times said. It remains unclear whether the carmakers were aware of monkeys being used in the experiments.

Volkswagen and fellow German carmakers Daimler and BMW on Saturday denounced the study, which was conducted in 2014. Revelations about the study are the latest aftershock from the Volkswagen emissions-rigging scandal, which are continuing to rock the auto industry.

'Absurd and inexcusable'

Bernd Althusmann, a member of Volkswagen's supervisory board, said such experiments were "absurd and inexcusable", demanding "harsh consequences" for whoever was responsible for the study, and works council chief Bernd Osterloh, who is also on the carmaker's board, called for a detailed investigation into the matter.

Commissioning such a study involving live animals did not reflect ethical or moral behaviour, Osterloh said.

"If the people who were responsible at the time are still on board, then personnel consequences must be considered," he said.

Testing on people

Then on Sunday, German daily Stuttgarter Zeitung reported that EUGT also sponsored scientific studies testing nitrogen dioxide, a gas found in exhaust fumes, on people. It said about 25 healthy young people inhaled nitrogen dioxide in varying doses over a period of hours at an institute belonging to Aachen University in Germany, but the impact of the gas on people could not be determined when the study was published in 2016, it said.

The purpose and outcome of the study remain unclear but revelations about experiments involving people come as the auto industry faces bans of toxic diesel vehicles from inner cities following revelations in 2015 that Volkswagen manipulated emissions on diesel-engined cars.

Daimler on Sunday condemned the studies, saying : "We are appalled by the extent of the studies and their implementation. We condemn the experiments in the strongest terms. Even though Daimler did not have influence on the study's design, we have launched a comprehensive investigation into the matter."