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Brake linings and tires source of major toxic emissions

Particles from the wear of brake linings and tires are still a major source of emissions of toxic metals. Researchers at the University of Kalmar in Sweden have studied city traffic in Stockholm and found that the emission of toxic metals has not decreased appreciably despite major environmental efforts by automakers.

Considering the ban on lead in vehicle fuel and the debate about the climate impact of carbon dioxide emissions from transportation, it is easy to imagine that fuel is one of the major sources of pollution from vehicle traffic.

"What you seldom think about is the huge amounts of brake linings and tires that are worn out in traffic and the fact that these products contain considerable amounts metals," says David Hjortenkrans, one of the scientists at the University of Kalmar in Sweden who performed the study.

Despite the fact that authorities have regulated the metal content of auto parts and the fact that the auto industry has tried to make improvements, brake linings and tires are still among the major sources of metals in urban environments.

The study compares estimated metal emissions from brake linings and tires for the years 1995/1998 and 2005. The release of copper and zinc from brake linings has remained unchanged over this period.

"It is gratifying to see that efforts to remove cadmium and lead from auto products have yielded results, with decreased emissions as a result," says Professor Bo Bergbäck.

It was also shown that there are now large quantities of the metal antimony in brake linings, which is among the newer metals whose use has increased in society in the last few years (cf. the element platinum in catalytic converters). It was also revealed that, despite their lower metal content, tires are one of the major sources of zinc and cadmium in cities.

The study, published in one of the journals of the American Chemical Society, Environmental Science & Technology, has created quite a stir, above all in the United States.

"The study presents findings that are not entirely favorable for a nation that has the highest number of vehicles registered per inhabitant in the world," says David Hjortenkrans. More stringent control of emissions might substantially hamper the mobility of many people.

David Hjortenkrans, phone: +46-480 446 227, or Bo Bergbäck, phone: +46-480 446 245; cell phone: +46-70 653 01 78.

Pressofficer Karin Ekebjär. phone +46-709 229 435;

Karin Ekebjär | idw
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