Vehicle emissions are pollutants that are released from the car and a formed due to the burning of gasoline. These pollutants have been shown to be detrimental to human health and also destructive to the natural environment. While not all air pollution is due to vehicle emissions a significant portion is and for a long time there was no control of vehicle emissions.
Types of Motor Vehicle Emissions
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Co is tasteless, odorless and colorless and is highly toxic to animals and humans at high concentrations. This gas is produced when carbon compounds, such as gasoline are not fully burned, as there is not enough oxygen present to form carbon dioxide. The most common form of air poisoning is due to carbon monoxide. When the gas is inhaled it will bind to hemoglobin and form carboxyhemoglobin. The carboxy form can no longer bind oxygen and the body becomes oxygen starved.
Hydrocarbons are molecules that only contain carbon and hydrogen molecules. Most natural hydrocarbons are present in crude oil, the starting component of gasoline. These molecules are what make gasoline such a good fuel source as they release a lot of energy when burned. When they are burned, hydrocarbons produce heat, carbon dioxide and steam. However not all hydrocarbons are burned in the engine or they are not burned completely and some are released as emissions. At ground level hydrocarbons in the air can form ozone and are a component of smog. Several hydrocarbons are toxic and have been found to cause health problems.
Nitrogen oxides are formed when oxygen and nitrogen come together at high pressure and temperature found in the internal combustion engine. When nitrogen oxides are present in the atmosphere and exposed to sunlight they turn into ozone and have been found to form acid rain. When these oxides combine with hydrocarbons in the air it will form smog. It has negative effects on human health as these oxides have been found to reduce the body’s natural resistance to respiratory illnesses.
Particulate matter or PM is made up of very small liquid droplets and particles. The components that make up PM include dust particles, soil, metals, organic chemicals and acids. The small size of these particles have been linked to many health problems as they can easily pass into the lungs. When the particles are in the body they can produce serious health problems, particularly in causing respiratory disease. There are two main classes of PM in the US; inhalable coarse particles that range in size from 2.5 to 10 micrometers and fine particles that are found in haze and smoke and are smaller than 2.5 micrometers.
Sulfur oxides are made of oxygen and sulfur molecules and are normally found in the lower atmosphere. One type of sulfur oxide, sulfur dioxide, is produced by burning fuel that contains high levels of sulfur. It is a pollutant as when sulfur dioxide is present in the air it can turn into sulfuric acid which then produces acid rain. While it is an emission from vehicles the most common producer of sulfur dioxide in the air is from volcano eruptions. A link between health and sulfur dioxide has been found and acid rain has been found to be very harmful to the environment as pH kills many plants that cannot survive in acidic conditions.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds or VOCs are produced from solids and liquids in the form of a gas. These gases are produced from many products including vehicle emissions. The VOCs have evaporation temperatures under 250 degrees and are released when fuel is burned and sometimes when fuel is simply being stored. Different VOCs have been found to have both short and long-term effects to health. These pollutants are particularly of concern indoors as they can build up to high levels. Indoors the main concern is for human health while outdoors they can turn into smog if the right conditions are present.
Statistics and Research
Alternative Fuel Research and Studies
In an attempt to reduce the amount of vehicle emissions, car manufactures have changed to using alternative fuels. Alternative fuels are any fuel that runs on anything other than petroleum fuels. Some of these fuels include solar power, hybrid electric, electric, bio-fuels and more. Many of the newest alternative few vehicles are classified as zero emission vehicles as they do not emit any pollutants. Many vehicles are hybrid vehicles that use alternative fuel at lower speeds and gasoline at higher speeds. There is much research going on for emerging fuels that are currently in development, such as biogas, biobutanol, methanol, hydrogenation-derived renewable diesel and xTL fuels.
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