Research on the roadside dust and potential health concerns (Automation and Transportation)

This research was primarily led by Reto Gieré of the University of Pennsylvania, along with numerous collaborators around the world, finding out other major contributors to the pollution: Tiny bits of tires, brake pads, along with other road constituents which suspend in the air as vehicles pass by.

Mr. Reto Cieré stated: “More and more I’ve noticed that we don’t know enough about what is on our roads, if you have lots of traffic, cars, and trucks driving by, they re-suspend the dust on the roads into the atmosphere, and then it becomes breathable. To understand the potential health implications of these dust particles, it’s really important to understand what’s on the road.”

He went on to add: “About 4 million people die prematurely from air pollution each year, from unsafe water the number is 2 million. Yet we have a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal about water pollution but not one about the air.

At higher temperatures, we saw more tire abrasion, more pollution than at intermediate temperatures. This was exactly analogous to what two laboratory studies found.”

The researcher continues with: “The optical microscope gives us a first approximation, while the scanning electron microscope allows us to distinguish between tire abrasions, brake abrasion, carbon, or find out if there are minerals in there.”

This study is majorly focused upon the “super course” particles that are picked; they are larger than 10 micrometers in their size. These particles are quite small, but these particles tend to result in the health-threat lesser than the ones which are even smaller, hence much effortlessly inhaled.

The researcher concluded that: “These coarse particles aren’t going to be transported very far, so pollution is going to be restricted to the vicinity of these roads, especially during congestion, but they do also collect on the road and then wash into rivers. Our team believes that’s a major pathway of how micro-plastics get into waterways.”

The work was financially supported in part by the Federal Highway Research Institute in cooperation with the German Meteorological Service.