Home Medizin Neue Studie deckt versteckte Gesundheitsrisiken beim Bremsen von Fahrzeugen auf

Neue Studie deckt versteckte Gesundheitsrisiken beim Bremsen von Fahrzeugen auf

von NFI Redaktion

Scientists know relatively little about particles released into the air when a vehicle brakes. However, there is evidence to suggest that these particles may be more harmful to health than those emitted from the exhaust pipe.

In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of California, Irvine show that most of these particles emitted during light braking carry an electric charge – something that could potentially be exploited to reduce vehicle air pollution.

„We found that up to 80% of aerosol particles emitted during braking are electrically charged, and many of them are actually highly charged,“ said Adam Thomas, a doctoral student in the lab of Jim Smith, Professor of Chemistry, who led the study along with UCI postdoctoral researcher Paulus Bauer.

For the study, the team used a large lathe machine to rotate a detached brake disk and caliper. They then measured the electric charge of the aerosols emitted into the air and found the percentage to be 80 percent.

„I was very surprised. We were also surprised that this has not really been investigated given the prevalence of cars in human societies.“

Jim Smith, Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Irvine

The research is part of a broader team effort at UCI to understand the impact of non-exhaust emissions on public health in areas with high vehicle traffic, including many areas in Southern California.

„The toxicity and health effects of brake wear particles are largely unknown,“ said Manabu Shiraiwa, Professor of Aerosol Chemistry at UCI and one of the researchers behind the university-wide project. „Recent results from my lab suggest they may trigger oxidative stress, but further investigations are needed.“

The new study highlights a problem that could increase with the growing popularity of electric vehicles in the coming decades. Electric cars, explained Smith, are not truly emission-free vehicles, so communities need to consider strategies to reduce emissions from both braking and exhaust pipes.

The team found that the percentage of emitted charged particles largely depends on the material composition of the brake pads. Since the particles carry an electric charge, it should be relatively easy to remove them from the air.

„If they are charged, they can be easily removed from the air before they can have any health impacts,“ said Smith. „All you would need to do is collect them with an electrostatic filter – a device that exposes the charged particles to an electric field and efficiently sweeps them away.“

The public health risk posed by brake emissions is not equally borne by all populations – lower-income neighborhoods tend to have higher traffic volume, leading to an environmental justice issue where certain socioeconomic classes are more exposed to brake emissions than others.

According to Professor Barbara Finlayson-Pitts, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and lead researcher of the project at UCI, brake emissions are not well characterized but potentially significant in high-traffic areas. „These areas are often in poorer communities and underscore an important aspect of environmental justice that has largely been overlooked,“ said Finlayson-Pitts.

The UCI team is collaborating with local community organizations such as the Madison Park Neighborhood Association in Santa Ana to help translate UCI’s scientific findings to the public. The study was funded by fees paid by Volkswagen as part of a settlement with the California Department of Justice in 2016, which found the company used devices that contributed to increased air pollution.


University of California – Irvine

Journal Reference:

Thomas, AE, et al. (2024). Automotive braking is a source of highly charged aerosol particles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2313897121.

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