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Air pollution from tyres and brakes

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Picture showing a row of black cars in a traffic jam on a motorway

There is coverage this morning on BBC News Online and BBC Radio 4’s Today programme of a new report into the impact of particulate and plastic pollution from brakes, tyres and road wear.

The Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) – an Expert Committee to Defra – has called for urgent action to address the problem of tyres and brakes, which is predicted to account for 10 per cent of national emissions of PM 2.5 by 2030.

It comes as the government also publishes the summary of responses to its call for evidence on these emission sources, which indicate that the problem is still poorly understood.

As outlined in its landmark Clean Air Strategy, the UK Government is now calling for industry to support the development of standardised methods for measuring emissions from these sources, leading to a new international standard for tyre and brake wear.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said:

The documents published today make clear that it is not just fumes from car exhaust pipes that have a detrimental impact on human health but also the tiny particles that are released from their brakes and tyres.

That is why an ambition of our Clean Air Strategy is to address all sources of particulate matter, including those from transport. Today’s research goes a long way in helping us better understand the problem.

Emissions from car exhausts have been decreasing through development of cleaner technologies and there is now a need for the car industry to find innovative ways to address the challenges of air pollution from other sources.

Transport Minister Michael Ellis said:

We are committed to reducing all transport emissions and cleaning up our air. With record levels of ultra-low emission vehicles on the UK’s roads, things are clearly moving in the right direction.

“To continue this progress, we are looking for ways to reduce emissions from other sources such as brakes and tyres. We are engaging at an international level to identify how to measure these emissions as well as aiming to develop standards to control them.

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said:

The automotive industry is committed to improving air quality and has already all but eliminated particulate matter from tailpipe emissions. Brake, tyre and road wear is a recognised challenge as emissions from these sources are not easy to measure.

A United Nations global group, including industry experts and government, is working to better understand, and agree how to measure, these emissions. Maintenance of the road surface, as well as further investment in new vehicle technologies, is essential to reducing these emissions, without compromising safety and we welcome further research in this area.

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  1. Comment by patrick wilkinson posted on

    driving electric vehicles uses virtually no braking at all so no brake dust, all breaking is done regeneratively i.e. generating electricity to feed back into the battery. This is all negative spin from the fossil fuel industry