Make tackling toxic emissions from tires a priority, experts urge

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Experts from Imperial College London are calling for more to be done to limit the potentially harmful impact of toxic tire particles on health and the environment.

The researchers, from Imperial College London’s Transition to Zero Pollution initiative, warn that although electric vehicles will solve the problem of fuel emissions, we will continue to have a problem with particulate matter due to tire wear.

Six million tonnes of tire wear particles are emitted worldwide each year, and in London alone, 2.6 million vehicles emit around 9,000 tonnes of tire wear particles each year.

Despite this, research on the environmental and health impact of tire wear has been neglected compared to the research and innovations dedicated to tackling fuel emissions. The Imperial researchers say that priority should be given to the effect of new technologies on the generation and impact of tire wear.

In a new briefing paper, a multidisciplinary group of Imperial experts, including engineers, ecologists, medical doctors, and air quality analysts, called for as much investment in tire wear research as there is to reduce fuel emissions – and to understand their interactions.

Lead author Dr Zhengchu Tan, from Imperial’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said: “Tyre wear particles pollute the environment, the air we breathe, water runoff from roads, and (have) compounding effects on waterways and agriculture.eventually electric powered vehicles replace fossil fuels, we will still have harmful pollution from vehicles due to tire wear.

“We call on policy makers and scientists to undertake ambitious research into tire wear pollution to fully understand and reduce their impacts on biodiversity and health, as well as research to reduce the generation of these particles.”

Transition to Zero Pollution is an Imperial College London initiative that aims to build new partnerships between research, industry and government to help achieve a sustainable zero pollution future.

Professor Mary Ryan, Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise) at Imperial College London, and co-author of the briefing paper, said, “To protect our planet and the health of future generations we need to look at more than just one problem. perspective, but take a systems level approach. This is why we need to look beyond just carbon and consider all forms of man-made pollution.

“Electric vehicles are a vital step forward in decarbonising transport, but we also need to look at the big picture. Some people are concerned that electric vehicles tend to be heavier, which could increase the consumption of This is precisely why Imperial College London is driving its holistic, integrated approach to sustainability challenges.

“We will continue to leverage the full strength of our research and influence to find meaningful solutions and help achieve a sustainable, zero-pollution future.”

In the briefing paper, the researchers discuss how the wear of these particles originates, where the particles end up, their potential effects on people and the planet, and why we must act now.

Tire wear particles

As tires break down they release a range of particles, from visible bits of tire rubber to nanoparticles. Large particles from the road are carried by rain into rivers, where they can leach toxic chemicals into the environment, while smaller particles become airborne and are inhaled. They are small enough to go deep into the lungs.

These particles can contain a range of toxic chemicals including polyaromatic hydrocarbons, benzothiazoles, isoprene, and heavy metals such as zinc and lead.

Environmental effects

Particulate matter from tire wear is a significant source of “microplastics” in rivers and oceans, and tire wear in cities can pose up to four times more risk to the environment than other microplastics.

While current technological interventions such as filters and environmental policies may help control our ecological footprint, there are major gaps in our knowledge, understanding and ability to predict the polluting impacts of tire wear.

Co-author Dr. Will Pearse, from Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences, “Tyre waste does not degrade naturally and instead accumulates in the environment, and can interact with other pollutants as well as biological organisms. research and development of new solutions is vital so that we can limit all forms of vehicular pollution.”

Health effects

The impact of tire wear particles on human health is a growing concern, and more research into the full long-term effects on our health is urgently needed.

Evidence is emerging that tire wear particles and other particulate matter may contribute to a range of negative health effects including heart, lung, developmental, reproductive and cancer outcomes.

Co-author Professor Terry Tetley of the Imperial National Heart and Lung Institute said: “We are increasingly concerned about the impact of tire wear on human health. Because some of these particles are so small they can be carried in the air, it is possible that If we go on the path, we could be exposed to this type of pollution. It is vital that we better understand the impact of these particles on our health.”

Transfer gear

The researchers argue that reducing tire pollution should be seen as a vital part of making transport cleaner and more sustainable, alongside reductions in CO.2 and other exhaust emissions. As we tackle the climate crisis, we should design better systems and technologies to protect the environment; and research funding, government policy and regulatory frameworks should reflect this.

The authors of the report call on policy makers and scientists to investigate the complex problems of tire wear pollution, from the basics of wear particle production, to understanding how these particles affect the health of people and the planet. Potential innovation solutions include particle capture technologies, new advanced materials, and disruptive business models that encourage different transportation options. These need to be coupled with clear policy and regulation and a wider discussion of urban transport systems.

Research efforts, they say, should include:

  • Establish standardized ways to measure environmental tire wear levels and their toxicity.
  • Reducing harm to land and water species and people by limiting the use of harmful components in tire materials.
  • Conduct new tests to better understand the short-term and long-term effects of particles of different sizes on the environment and human health.
  • Efforts to better understand basic wear mechanisms and recommend wear mitigation strategies, such as reducing vehicle weight, using advanced driving techniques, and ensuring tire materials meet wear resistance regulations.

More information:
Zhengchu Tan et al, Tire wear particles are toxic to us and the environment (2023).

Available at Imperial College London

Quote: Prioritize tackling toxic emissions from tires, experts urge (2023, February 22) retrieved on February 22, 2023 from urge.html

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