How much Air Pollution do cars really cause?
The pollution caused by the use of vehicles has been on the lips of all politicians for a long time. The carbon dioxide emissions that cars release into the atmosphere and into the air we breathe are truly alarming; This is without counting the rest of the gases that they emit and that are harmful to health.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that a typical passenger car emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. The emission of gases from cars has a great impact on the environment and health
Cars release pollutants in the form of nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, sulfur oxides, and particles directly into the air. These types of emissions have been linked to negative impacts on human health, especially when exposed for long periods of time or in high concentrations, as well as climate change and environmental issues.
Furthermore, according to a 2015 report, diesel vehicles were largely responsible for health problems caused by air pollution in India. In addition, according to the WHO, almost 3.7 million premature deaths are caused by outdoor air pollution each year, which is mainly made up of pollutants from vehicles.
Why pollute a car?
Pollution from the car is mainly due to two aspects:
- The first is the emission of CO2, which is not directly negative for health but contributes to the greenhouse effect.
- The second is a series of gases such as CO, NO, unburned hydrocarbons, lead compounds and the solid particles PM2.5 and PM10 that worsen the quality of the air we breathe in cities.
A car pollutes a lot throughout its useful life. Taking as an example a (relatively old) car that emits 100 g/km of carbon dioxide and that will circulate for 250,000 km, we are faced with a car that will emit 25 tons of this gas into the atmosphere.
In recent years, many hybrid/electric models are offered in developed countries, but these countries export highly polluting cars to less developed countries, so the problem of emissions affecting the ozone layer is still there. That is to say, the place where the emissions are produced does not matter for the ozone layer, therefore, exporting this type of automobile is not good for the nation that exports it or for the one that imports it.
What cars pollute the most?
Speaking of pollution, the most polluting vehicles today are those with diesel engines prior to 2009, since they were not affected by the EURO5 5 standard, which was more restrictive than its predecessors.
- In other words, diesel vehicles are more than 13 years old.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that carbon dioxide emissions (which have been linked to climate change time and time again) in the United States increased by about 3% between 1990 and 2019, which corresponds with factors such as the growth of the population, economic growth, behavioural changes, new technologies, and increased travel demand.
What are the main types of air pollution?
These are the things you can actually see. Those dark, billowing fumes from that stinking truck you’re trapped behind? It is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets, and inhaling it can damage the lungs and potentially enter the bloodstream.
Carbon monoxide (CO)
When your car burns fuel, it gives off carbon monoxide. Breathing too much carbon monoxide can damage the brain, heart, and other organs, and can be fatal in high enough concentrations. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that up to 95% of carbon monoxide in cities comes from vehicle exhaust!
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
Nitrogen dioxide is another pollutant released when your car burns fuel. Inhalation of nitrogen dioxide can damage the respiratory system, and long-term exposure has been linked to chronic lung disease.
High levels of nitrogen oxides in the air contribute to increases in greenhouse gases, which are a large part of climate change.
What is the solution?
On the one hand, we have the treaties to reduce pollution, the most important being the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement was an agreement on emissions agreed by 195 countries in 2015, which establishes measures to reduce the emission of gases that cause the greenhouse effect and reduce global warming.
This fact caused many brands to begin to design models with electric and hybrid motors, but issues such as the low autonomy of the batteries, and the high prices for this type of vehicle have drivers somewhat concerned.
In many countries, environmental labels have been created, which establish more or fewer restrictions for cars. The most restricted are those with label B, which are those that use gasoline/diesel as fuel.
How you can help reduce air pollution from cars
The solution would be given by all the manufacturing companies, the governments, both those of the exporting countries and those of the countries that import the cars and ultimately, the drivers.
- Combine trips for greater efficiency.
- Carpool or use public transportation.
- Walk or ride your bike.
- Keep your car in good repair—a well-maintained engine will pollute less.
- Swap out gas-powered appliances for electric versions (looking at you, leaf blowers).
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