When I took delivery of my electric vehicle (EV) earlier this month, I already knew that it would have actually been better for the environment for me to keep hold of our 10 year-old Volvo. Embodied emissions, which are the emissions created through the cars manufacture, are huge.
So it fills me with dismay to find out that tyre dust causes a huge problem in terms of microplastics — and the weight of EVs, and subsequent tyre wear, just makes that worse.
Scientists have a good understanding of engine emissions, which typically consist of unburnt fuel, oxides of carbon and nitrogen, and particulate matter related to combustion. However, new research shared by Yale Environment 360 indicates that there may be a whole host of toxic chemicals being shed from tires and brakes that have been largely ignored until now. Even worse, these emissions may be so significant that they actually exceed those from a typical car's exhaust output.
Source: Tire Dust Makes Up the Majority of Ocean Microplastics: Study | The Drive
New research efforts are only just beginning to reveal the impact of near-invisible tire and brake dust. A report from the Pew Charitable Trust found that 78 percent of ocean microplastics are from synthetic tire rubber. These toxic particles often end up ingested by marine animals, where they can cause neurological effects, behavioral changes, and abnormal growth.
Meanwhile, British firm Emissions Analytics spent three years studying tires. The group found that a single car’s four tires collectively release 1 trillion “ultrafine” particles for every single kilometer (0.6 miles) driven. These particles, under 100 nanometers in size, are so tiny that they can pass directly through the lungs and into the blood. They can even cross the body’s blood-brain barrier. The Imperial College London has also studied the issue, noting that “There is emerging evidence that tire wear particles and other particulate matter may contribute to a range of negative health impacts including heart, lung, developmental, reproductive, and cancer outcomes.”