Tire on glaciers and in the oceans

Audio 02:30

The emission of microparticles from brakes, tires and road surfaces causes serious damage to health.

The finer this invisible dust, the more it enters the lungs.

© Pixabay / Mikes Photography

By: Marina Mielczarek

7 min

Fuel is not the only pollution in road transport.

Tires and road surfaces are two others.

In any case, this is what a Nature Communications study claims.

The document explains that rubber dust is transported to the poles by atmospheric currents.

They would pollute the seas as much as the pastique arrived by the rivers.


Copper capsules swallowed at breakfast are excellent for your health.

However, this same copper heated in car brake pads will poison you!

It is with this easy-to-understand image that Christophe Rocca-Serra likes to talk about this metallic and plastic pollution of road transport.

This poison in the air marked him so much that in 2012, this business school graduate created the Tallano company.

Tallano, a world first. 

His company proposes to clean the air by sucking all the dust directly on the brake pads. 

The idea came to me, he explains, observing the black dust coming from my own car.

The brakes were in poor condition.

I discovered that this fine particle pollution represents most of the pollution of a vehicle, much more than that of the exhaust.   

Tests on French trains and the Chinese metro

It remains to convince builders and public services.

But there is hope since the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer) runs the RER C of Paris equipped with this system.

In China, brake vacuum cleaners will be installed by the end of 2021 on the trains of the Shanghai metro. 

Rubber dust sinks deep into the lungs 

Respiratory diseases, allergy, cancers.

Three main sources cause serious health damage: micro particles from brakes, tires and road surfaces.

The finer this invisible dust, the more it enters the lungs. 

The Nature Communications study estimates 50,000 tonnes of micro plastic particles per year in the oceans and glaciers from road transport.

Coach and truck companies are interested.

The market is opening up in Europe. 

Road dust and high winds 

In Europe, it is the Scots, the Germans and the French who study the pollution of the friction of tires on the road the most.

The study also shows that microparticles from road transport absorb more sunlight than white snow.

Hence a possible long-term impact on the melting of the ice.

Electric vehicles won't change that

Biochemist Gaëlle Uzu is leading this work at IRD, the Institute for Research for Development in Grenoble:           

We have been working on the subject of micro particles in road transport for fifteen years, she explains.

In reality, the heavier the vehicles, the more they pollute by braking and the more their tires deteriorate.

A survey by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) shows that this pollution is increasing year after year.

Hybrid and electric cars emit up to 8% more particles.  

Africa, open-air tires 

In Africa, old rubber tires are often piled up in illegal landfills.

A disaster for the environment.

These hollow tires are fire and mosquito tanks!

Hence the risk of disease proliferation. 

REDIZA's Africa, tire recycler 

It was in South Africa that the REDISA company found a way not to eradicate this pollution from plastics and rubbers… but at least to reduce it.

The company employs workers from disadvantaged neighborhoods, REDIZA collects tires all over the country to manufacture new ones.

In three years, the company has quadrupled the recycling rate of waste tires in South Africa (from 4% to 19%)  

America, Europe and Southeast Asia, major polluters  

Nevertheless, and the Nature Communications survey confirms it, emissions of rubber, microplastics and metals come from North America, Europe and Southeast Asia. 

Link: http://www.oecd.org/environment/non-exhaust-particulate-emissions-from-road-transport-4a4dc6ca-en.htm


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  • Transport

  • Pollution

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