Student’s Corner

4 big problems with tires we need to talk about

Tire related pollution sprung into national news back in September, with a number of articles discussing the dangerous pollution coming from the breaking down of tires on the road. Unfortunately, this is not one car problem electric vehicles can solve. In fact, they can make it worse as they are found to be heavier, making tires break down even faster. Keep reading for a summary of this Yale Environment 360 article’s main points to learn more. 

1. Water pollution

One major concern with tire pollution is the release of the chemical called 6PPD. It’s added to tires to prevent cracking and degradation but when it inevitably comes off the tire, it interacts with ground-level ozone and gets transformed into toxic chemicals that are found to kill many fish species, including the coho salmon which was the center of this study. Due to this revelation, groups such as Earthjustice, the fishing industry, and Native American tribes have been calling for more regulation on tires and their chemicals. 6PPD is just one of over 400 chemicals and compounds used to create tires. The ocean is also affected by this pollution, with 78% of ocean microplastics coming from synthetic tire rubber which can have serious negative effects on marine life. 

One study in Canada found that when rain gardens were installed in yards to capture stormwater, they also caught 96% of street litter and 100% of black rubber tire fragments.

2. Air pollution

Cars also emit ultrafine particles whenever driven, which have the scary effect of passing through the lung tissue into our bloodstreams. They could also travel directly into the brain. Recent studies also found that a large amount of PM 2.5 and PM 10 (particulate matter) emissions actually come from tires and breaks rather than tailpipes, which have been regulated for a while. In fact, tires are said to release 100 times more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than a tailpipe. One report found that there’s new evidence that these particles may contribute to a variety of negative health impacts encompassing the heart, lungs, and reproductive system. 

In Europe they’re working on regulations for tire and brake emissions and the California Environmental Protection Agency has required tire manufacturers to find an alternative to 6PPD-q by 2024.

3. Hidden ingredients

It’s hard to know what tires are truly made of as tire manufacturers keep that information highly confidential. Regulators are only starting to act on tire pollution as we’ve gained better technology to measure it.

4. Health impacts on workers

This was not discussed in Yale’s article but the actual creation of tires is quite hazardous for the workers. Common diseases include emphysema, dermatitis, leukemia, and cancers of the bladder, lung, and larynx.

Written by Sarah Woodams ‘24(T5)

Photo by Obi – @pixel8propix on Unsplash

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