It’s no secret that vehicles release some pretty harmful chemicals and gasses into the environment. These gases and emissions can severely reduce air quality, especially in larger cities that may be more congested with cars. This may be the reason some people choose to drive a hybrid or fully electric vehicle. It’s also widely believed that exhaust fumes released into the atmosphere are a contributing factor to global warming. What pollutants are being released from our vehicle’s tailpipe?
- Particulates –Particulates are primarily released from diesel engines and typically emit the black airborne soot you may be familiar with. Most modern diesel vehicles have diesel particulate filters to prevent most of it from being pumped into the air.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) – Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that is a severe contributing factor to climate change and ocean acidification. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that over 80% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from personal vehicles, medium, and heavy-duty trucks.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) – Carbon monoxide is a deadly colorless and odorless gas. It’s very toxic to humans and animals; if inhaled, the gas can bind to your blood’s hemoglobin. This blockage can prevent oxygen from getting to your vital organs. An older vehicle is more likely to emit carbon monoxide, while newer, modern cars have been engineered to produce small amounts.
- Benzene (C6H6) – Benzene occurs naturally in petrol and can be found in diesel vehicles in small amounts. Benzene is released from the exhaust pump as unburnt fuel. Benzene is a carcinogenic substance, and high levels can be considered unsafe for people who inhale it.
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2) – Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas with an odor that resembles burnt matches. It’s a gas that occurs naturally in crude oil. It forms acids when burned, leading to engine corrosion and smog. In severe cases, these acids can cause pollution and engine corrosion. Sulfur dioxide is considered unsafe for any people with sensitive respiratory systems such as the elderly or children.
- Nitrogen oxide (NOx) – Nitrogen oxide is produced in the combustion process and is usually a major topic of discussion in regards to diesel engines. This gas is extremely reactive and contributes to the creation of smog when combined with other airborne chemicals.
Pollutants from a vehicle’s exhaust can cause a range of allergies and health issues. Some chemicals inside the exhaust are said by experts to be contributing to the greenhouse effect. While these gases are harmful to both people and the environment, all is not doom and gloom. Car manufacturers are working hard to reduce exhaust emissions with catalytic converters and particulate filters. Hybrid and electric vehicles are convenient alternatives to gas and diesel vehicles. Most importantly, people are educating themselves and others on the effects of exhaust emissions.