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Study: Tires More Dirty than Car Exhaust

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June 15, 2022—A new study by an emissions testing company suggests vehicle tires produce more particle pollution than the exhaust from modern cars.

According to a report from the Guardian, English-based independent emissions tester Emissions Analytics has found that a car's tires produce almost 2,000 times more pollutants than its exhaust system.

“(Tires) are rapidly eclipsing the tailpipe as a major source of emissions from vehicles,” Emissions Analytics researcher Nick Molden said in the report. “Tailpipes are now so clean for pollutants that, if you were starting out afresh, you wouldn’t even bother regulating them.”

The findings may seem surprising at first, but regulators have been slowly requiring better filters in vehicles' exhaust systems for years now. Because of that, most new vehicles are well below the legal limit of toxic particles emitted. On the other hand, tires don't see the same kind of regulation. As a result, Emissions Analytics has found that around 273,000 tons of tire rubber particles are put off into the air in the U.S. and U.K. every year.

More granularly, new tires emit around 117 milligrams of tire particles per mile driven, and used tires emit just under 59 milligrams. By comparison, exhaust systems emit around 0.032 milligrams of particles every mile.

Per the report, Molden says Emissions Analytics has determined the chemicals in 250 different types of tires, many of which vary greatly in wear rate and the amount of toxic particles they produce. Molden suggests that making small changes to have the worst tires improve their wear rates would greatly reduce the total amount of pollution produced.

“You could do a lot by eliminating the most toxic tires,” he said. “It’s not about stopping people driving, or having to invent completely different new tires. If you could eliminate the worst half, and maybe bring them in line with the best in class, you can make a massive difference. But at the moment, there’s no regulatory tool, there’s no surveillance.”

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