Emissions from tyres waste ‘toxic’ for humans, environment

Last Updated on February 28, 2023 by Anshima Gupta

London, Feb 28 (IANS) Pollution coming from tyre particles is a great cause of concern on human health and the environment, and not enough has been done yet to tackle it, say researchers calling for urgent action to manage tyre waste.

According to researchers from the Imperial College London, six million tonnes of tyre wear particles are released globally each year.

When tyres break down they release a range of particles, from visible pieces of tyre rubber to nanoparticles that do not naturally degrade. These contain a range of toxic chemicals including polyaromatic hydrocarbons, benzothiazoles, isoprene, and heavy metals like zinc and lead, which may potentially interact with other pollutants as well as biological organisms.

Importantly, the smaller particles have the potential to reach into the deep lung, warned the researchers. They noted that emerging evidence links tyre wear particles to a range of negative health impacts including heart, lung, developmental, reproductive, and cancer outcomes.

“We are growing increasingly concerned by the impact of tyre wear on human health. As some of these particles are so small they can be carried in the air, it’s possible that simply walking on the pavement could expose us to this type of pollution,” said Professor Terry Tetley of Imperial’s National Heart and Lung Institute.

Further, particulate matter from tyre wear is also a significant source of ‘microplastics’ in rivers and oceans, and tyre wear in cities could pose up to a four-fold greater risk to the environment than other microplastics.

While existing technological interventions, such as filters, and environmental policies could help to control our ecological footprint, there are huge gaps in our knowledge, understanding, and ability to forecast the impacts of tyre wear pollution, they said, stressing on the need for prioritising new technologies on the generation and impact of tyre wear.

“Tyre wear particles pollute the environment, the air we breathe, the water run-off from roads and has compounding effects on waterways and agriculture. Even if all our vehicles eventually become powered by electricity instead of fossil fuels, we will still have harmful pollution from vehicles because of tyre wear,” said lead author Zhengchu Tan, from Imperial’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Urging policymakers and scientists to embark on ambitious research into tyre wear pollution, the researchers argued that reducing tyre pollution should be seen as a critical part of making transport cleaner and more sustainable, alongside reductions in carbon dioxide and other exhaust emissions.

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