Car Tires and Microplastics


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There are a lot of things that we do not think about while driving our cars every day from home to work and back. One thing people completely ignore are the traces of plastic, rubber, and various other materials. Most of these materials are a byproduct of the traction between the road and the tires.

A team of researchers collected samples from three German highways. About 90 percent of particles that the scientists collected was a combination of materials from tires, brakes, and roads. All these particles, when combined, are called microplastics.

The issue is that these same particles, carried by the wind, end up in waterways that later on carry them into the oceans. These same particles then have catastrophic effects on aquatic wildlife. Additionally, the ocean ecosystems are highly fragile and even minor changes in them can cause long-term problems. The ease with which these particles travel through the air is particularly concerning. Previous studies have shown that more than 30 percent of the microplastics found in ocean water comes from tire wear. That is an alarming number, any way you look at it.

We as a society all need to start watching our CO2 emissions in order to reduce greenhouse gases and put a stop to the increase in overall temperatures around the globe. Another problem is traffic congestion. If cars were able to travel at constant speeds without so much brake use the production of particles may be much smaller.

A big issue with some materials like synthetic rubber is that they, as they are traveling through the air, get covered by dust and are much harder to find during analysis. The tests that need to be performed are much more strenuous as each particle needs to be tested separately by using an electron microscope.

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