Everyone's seen the smoking car driving along as if nothing is wrong when it actually looks like its fully on fire. A recent study looked into such “poorly maintained” cars and trucks and found these small number of vehicles are responsible for the majority of vehicular air pollution.
Such pollution is linked to many common health conditions, many of which are fatal.
Children's asthma, heart disease, cancer, and overall increased rates of premature death are all linked to poor air quality, especially in area where air pollution is most acute.
A new study, published in the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques has found that controlling the problem is much easier than first thought. It found that just 25 percent of cars on the road are responsible for a massive 90 percent of vehicular air pollution.
Fix 25% of the cars, save 90% of the pollution. Those are attractive numbers, especially in emerging markets that lack the bureaucratic resources to intensely fight the issue and yet are the most plagued by its consequences.
The researchers, from the University of Toronto, examined 100,000 cars as they drove past air sampling devices positioned on one of Toronto’s major roads.
They found that 95 percent of black carbon, 93 percent of carbon monoxide, and 76 percent of volatile organic chemicals, were emitted by just 25 percent of vehicles on the road.
“We used to think that living near a major road meant that you lived near a lot of air pollution,” Greg Evans, leader of the study, said in a release. “But what we’re finding is that it’s not that simple, someone living right on a major road in the suburbs may not be exposed to as much pollution as someone living downtown on a side street near many major roads.”
“The ultrafine particles are particularly troubling,” he went on to say “because they are over 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, they have a greater ability to penetrate deeper within the lung and travel in the body.”
“The most surprising thing we found was how broad the range of emissions was,” he said. “As we looked at the exhaust coming out of individual vehicles, we saw so many variations. How you drive, hard acceleration, age of the vehicle, how the car is maintained – these are things we can influence that can all have an effect on pollution.”
Unlike many studies, the findings here can lead to firm and effective policy choices by governments looking to curb pollution. Requiring frequent emissions tests on older cars, and emissions tests any time a vehicle is bought or sold offer a low cost yet highly effective method of reducing pollution, without having to take broad based measures that are expensive and difficult to enforce.