Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Traffic emissions may pollute 1 in 3 Canadian homes

22.04.2015

Engineering studies find harmful vehicle emissions spread farther than thought, with variable pollution levels across cities

A trio of recently published studies from a team of University of Toronto engineers has found that air pollution could be spreading up to three times farther than thought--contributing to varying levels of air quality across cities.


Soon to be published in Atmospheric Environment, this map shows the varying levels of ultrafine particles throughout the city of Toronto.

Credit: Greg Evans/ Atmospheric Environment

Past research on air pollution from vehicle tailpipes has shown poor air quality anywhere between 100 to 250 metres of major roadways.

But in a paper published in the recent edition of the journal Atmospheric Pollution Research, U of T chemical engineer Greg Evans (ChemE) and his partners at Environment Canada have found that concentrations of pollutants from traffic are still double at a distance of 280 metres downwind from highway 400 north of Toronto.

One in three Canadians, and half of all Torontonians, lives within 250 meters of at least one major roadway. These roads, says Evans, range from 10-lane highways to most four-lane streets with steady traffic.

"We used to think that living near a major road meant that you lived near a lot of air pollution," says Evans. "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."

In the same study, Evans demonstrated that for somebody living near multiple roads, they could be exposed to up to ten times more pollutants than if they didn't live near any major roads.

"It used to be that we measured air quality on a regional or city scale," says Evans. "But now we're starting to understand that we need to measure air quality on a more micro scale, especially around major roadways."

According to Health Canada, poor air quality from traffic pollution is associated with a number of health issues, such as asthma in children and other respiratory diseases, heart disease, cancer, and increased rates of premature death in adults. The Canadian Medical Association attributes 21,000 premature deaths each year in Canada to air pollution. A separate study published last month also linked traffic pollution to delayed cognitive development in children.

Lab in a truck

Throughout 2014, the research team travelled the streets of Toronto measuring vehicle emissions from a mobile lab that resembles a Canada Post mail truck.

"One of the aspects of our work that's unique is that we're using real-time instruments to make measurements in seconds," says Evans. "You have to do the measurements right there, right away, or the exhaust will be gone."

The team's findings suggest that people living or spending time near major roadways could be exposed to elevated levels of a dangerous chemical brew of ultrafine particles, volatile organic compounds, black carbon and other pollutants.

"The ultrafine particles are particularly troubling," says Evans. "Because they are over 1000 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."

On a typical summer day in Toronto, Evans' instruments measure approximately 20,000 ultrafine particles in each cubic centimetre of air. This means that for every average breath, Torontonians are inhaling 10 million of these nano-sized particles. These numbers increases to 30,000 and 15 million in the winter, when there is more stagnant air and less evaporation of the compounds.

25% of cars causing 90% of pollution

A second paper by Evans and colleagues, published in the March 2015 edition of the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, suggests that a small number of older or "badly tuned" cars and trucks produce the majority of vehicle pollution.

The study made on-the-spot measurements of 100,000 vehicles as they drove past air-sampling probes of the main laboratory on College Street, one of Toronto's many major roadways.

Evans and team found that one-quarter of the vehicles on the road produced:

  • 95% of black carbon (or "soot"),

     

  • 93% of carbon monoxide,

     

  • and 76% of volatile organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes, some of which are known-carcinogens

     

"The most surprising thing we found was how broad the range of emissions was," says Evans. "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\e, how the car is maintained--these are things we can influence that can all have an effect on pollution."

A vehicle emissions map of Toronto

A third paper, due out in the June 2015 edition of the journal Atmospheric Environment, looks at variations in traffic pollution throughout Toronto, evaluating how exposure to largely unexplored, unregulated ultrafine particles varies across the city.

Evans is currently working with Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and Metro Vancouver to design, test and install new air quality measurement stations around the cities of Toronto and Vancouver. These stations will support enhanced monitoring of the air quality health index during this summer's Pan Am games in Toronto. More broadly, this research will provide a basis for future near road air quality monitoring in cities across Canada so as to get a more accurate portrayal of the exposure of Canadians to traffic pollution.

Evans and team hope that their research may someday lead to policy changes that could help better target the small number of vehicles that pollute the most, as well as to better decide where to build schools, hospitals, daycares, seniors residences and other structures to protect people who are especially vulnerable to air pollution.

RJ Taylor | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: EMISSIONS Toronto Traffic roadways ultrafine particles

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>