Study: Tires, Brakes Emit More Pollution Than Tailpipes

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March 13, 2020—British research firm Emissions Analytics is out with a study that says the pollution from tire wear could be 1,000 times worse than the emissions from a tailpipe.

The incremental degradation of brakes and road surfaces can emit similar particulate matter, according to a press release from the firm.

Researchers used a "popular family hatchback" with brand new tires and found that the car emitted 5.8 grams per kilometer of particles. That compared to regulatory limits of 4.5 milligrams per kilometer from exhaust emissions, per national rules.

“What is even more frightening is that while exhaust emissions have been tightly regulated for many years, tire wear is totally unregulated—and with the increasing growth in sales of heavier SUVs and battery-powered electric cars, non-exhaust emissions (NEE) are a very serious problem,” said Emissions Analytics senior researcher Richard Lofthouse in the release.

Stateside, the issue of non-exhaust emissions has been researched by the California Air Resources Board, which noted that these emissions are difficult to regulate.

A 2015 study linked to the Environmental Protection Agency found, in part, that as automakers have made significant improvements in curbing tailpipe emissions, these non-exhaust sources will become a bigger chunk of the overall particulate matter in the air.

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