Air pollution from brake dust may be as harmful as diesel exhaust on immune cells – new study

Posted: January 13, 2020 by oldbrew in Emissions, pollution, research, Travel

There goes the notion of a zero-emission vehicle. The chief suspect is vanadium, which ‘was the only metal that interacted with the macrophages and was also present in both brake dust and diesel exhaust particles’.

The harmful impact of air pollution caused by diesel exhaust fumes on our health is well known, says The Conversation.

It’s responsible for causing everything from respiratory problems to dementia and even certain types of cancers.

But what most people don’t realise is that exhaust fumes aren’t the only cause of air pollution.

In fact, up to 55% of roadside traffic pollution is made of non-exhaust particles, with around 20% of that pollution coming from brake dust. And as our latest research reveals, these particles may be just as damaging to our lungs as exhaust fumes.

Composed of iron particles, brake dust is caused by friction between the iron brake rotor grinding on the brake pads when a vehicle slows down. This brake dust is then worn away and becomes airborne.

And as recent research conducted by me and my colleagues found, brake dust triggers inflammation in the lung cells with the same severity as diesel particles.

Full article here.

  1. Gamecock says:

    ‘And as recent research conducted by me and my colleagues found, brake dust triggers inflammation in the lung cells with the same severity as diesel particles.’

    And since ‘diesel particles’ (sic) are harmless, all is well.

    “Never mind!”

  2. oldbrew says:

    The research was not on actual people of course, which is why the results aren’t conclusive.

    By adding brake dust particles to macrophages – the cells responsible for clearing the lungs of invading germs, waste and debris – we saw a nearly 185% increase in the cell’s inflammatory activity.
    . . .
    This discovery might mean that pollution from brake dust might be contributing to the high numbers of chest infections and froggy “city throats” that are reported by people living and working in urban areas. However, because the isolated cells that we used in our experiments can act differently to cells found in a living human’s lungs, further research is needed to confirm whether particle exposure contributes to infection risk in people.
    [bold added]

  3. hunterson7 says:

    So the problem is this: Where are the sick people?

  4. A C Osborn says:

    If this really is a problem that it would make sense to do what various studies showed.
    That you can massively reduce road pollution by sweeping the streets with the old fashioned Wet Road Sweepers.
    Otherwise the dust gets continually put back in to the atmosphere by the passing vheicles.

    Click to access R15_AIRUSE-Street-cleaning-CNE.pdf

    Road sweepers were soemthing that we saw a lot in the old days, but very rarely now.

  5. Tim Spence says:

    further research MONEY is needed to confirm our (flimsy) research, and give us something to do for the next four years.

    I recall a university research project from the 1990’s that identified 195 pollutants/emissions from motor vehicles. Only 15 of those were related to the ignition combustion process. The other 180 were things like tyre rubber, paintwork chipping and recycling of everything from the battery to extras that most cars don’t come with, they were really scraping the barrel.

    But in the moment they replace the combustion process with a battery engine the vehicle miraculously becomes ’emissions free’. How they play fast and loose with definitions.

    As an aside, these inner-city light railways churn out an unbelievable amount of metallic dust from the tracks.

  6. Dan says:

    Back in the sixties, most brake linings were made of asbestos, and would last 60,000 to 100,000 miles or more. So, obviously much less dust produced than from today’s materials. I don’t know whether or not that equates to less overall risk.

  7. tom0mason says:

    “And as recent research conducted by me and my colleagues found, brake dust triggers inflammation in the lung cells with the same severity as diesel particles.”

    And I would hazard a guess that this is quite a normal response in order to get a controlled amount of mucus within the lungs and throat, and also to trigger a coughing response to expel the mucus coated dust particles.

    So what of the millions of tons of tire dust these vehicle generate?
    From where the researcher says —

    Gieré notes that this problem of tire abrasion may only get worse, “which is significant,” he says, “because nearly 30 percent of the microplastics released globally to the oceans are from tires.”

    Also see ‘What Happens To Rubber That Wears Off Auto Tires?’ at
    and November 14, 2019 — ‘Micro-rubber in the environment: Researchers calculate load with micro-rubber’ from

    If the air was perfectly clean and particulate free would we ever cough? Would our immune response to particulates diminish?

  8. oldbrew says:

    Birmingham cars could be banned from driving through city centre
    2 hours ago

    Private cars will be banned from taking “through trips” across Birmingham city centre under plans to cut pollution.

    Vehicles will be able to drive into the city, but would have to go back out to the ring road to access other areas.
    . . .
    The plan also says the council will look to introduce measures to reduce parking and could also redevelop some of its car parks.
    – – –
    plans to cut pollution by making some journeys longer. How does that work?

  9. Curious George says:

    Unbelievable what can pass for “science”.

  10. phil salmon says:

    Yet another opportunity for guilt, anxiety, depression and self loathing 😄

  11. Phoenix44 says:

    The only problems “pollution” causes are purely statistical. Very slight rises in deaths even when you throw every possible death into the mix and ignore whether people were actually exposed or not.

    The levels of PMs in the air in the UK are now around a third of what they were in the 1970s – soit should be very easy to show a substantial reduction in deaths over that period. Yet for some strange reason that isn’t produced as evidence for why we should ban cars.

    I wonder why?

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