AutosUnseen threat: Tire dust pollution's devastating impact on the environment

Unseen threat: Tire dust pollution's devastating impact on the environment

Tires have one ingredient that has a catastrophic impact on living organisms.
Tires have one ingredient that has a catastrophic impact on living organisms.
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6:49 PM EDT, May 8, 2024

The issue of tire dust has recently garnered serious attention, chiefly because of the enormous quantities released into the environment and its hazardous composition.

In the dialogue between automotive technology and environmental concerns, the spotlight typically falls on exhaust emissions, such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. Yet, scientists are urging us to broaden our perspective to include another significant source of pollution: tires.

The concern revolves around the dust generated by tire wear. An astonishing 6.6 million tons of tire particles pollute the air and water bodies yearly. Alarmingly, we are only starting to grasp the potential risks associated with this phenomenon.

In an interview with "New Scientist" magazine, Thilo Hofmann, a professor of environmental geology at the University of Vienna, emphasized that tire dust is a problem that can no longer be overlooked.

The term "chemical cocktail" refers to the primary substances in tires that caused an environmental disaster in the US. Though tire dust has been recognized for decades, it has only recently become a focal point of environmental discussions.

Research from 2020 revealed that a staggering 78 percent of ocean microplastics originate from car tires. Shockingly, not just the quantity but also the composition of these particles poses a significant threat.

A key rubber compound, 6PPD, acts as an antioxidant and stabilizer. Yet, when it interacts with ozone, it degrades into various harmful elements. This transformation led to the mass die-off of salmon in the Puget Sound bays of Washington State, spotlighting the compound's lethal impact on aquatic life.

The discovery prompted residents to appeal to the US Environmental Protection Agency for action. There is hope that, with increased scrutiny, tire manufacturers might be compelled to amend their products' formulations to mitigate environmental damage.

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