More likely than not, getting a vehicle from point “A” to point “B” involves combustion of a fossil fuel, a process that emits gasses and affects the environment. In December 1970, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported over 89.9 billion vehicle miles traveled, or VMT. That number nearly tripled to over 246.3 trillion VMT in December 2011. Such a sharp incline in traffic volume begs the question: how does car pollution affect the environment and the ozone layer? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than half of the air pollution in the nation is caused by mobile sources, primarily automobiles. Further contributing to the pollution potential of cars is the fact that they are filled with numerous fluids, which can harm the environment in the cases of leakage or improper disposal.
Vehicle Emissions and Air Quality
When a car’s engine is running, several different types of gasses and particles are emitted that can have detrimental effects on the environment. Of particular concern to the environment are carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas; hydrocarbons — any of more than a dozen volatile organic compounds, some of which are known carcinogens; nitrogen oxides; sulfur oxides; and particulate matter, tiny particles of solids, such as metal and soot. Other emissions that affect human health and create smog include ozone and carbon monoxide. The good news is that despite the increase of vehicles on the road, air quality today is actually better than it was in the 1970s, thanks to the 1970 Clean Air Act. In fact, lead emissions from cars have been almost completely eradicated because of the phasing out of leaded gasoline.
Effects on the Environment
Vehicle emissions can affect the environment in several ways. Cars emit greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming. Some air pollutants and particulate matter from cars can be deposited on soil and surface waters where they enter the food chain; these substances can affect the reproductive, respiratory, immune and neurological systems of animals. Nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides are major contributors to acid rain, which changes the pH of waterways and soils and can harm the organisms that rely on these resources.
Vehicles contain many different fluids, including motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline, air-conditioning refrigerants, and brake, transmission, hydraulic and windshield-wiper fluids. In most cases, these fluids are toxic to humans and animals, and can pollute waterways if they leak from a vehicle or are disposed of incorrectly. Many vehicle fluids are exposed to heat and oxygen while an engine is running, and undergo chemical changes. These fluids also pick up heavy metals from engine wear and tear, making them even more toxic to the environment.
Information Provided By : nationalgeographic