By on March 14, 2011

From Hybrids and plug-ins to direct-injection and HCCI, a number of new technologies hold the promise of ever-cleaner automobiles. But what if, by solving existing pollution problems with these new technologies, we create new pollution problems? That’s what the Health Effects Institute’s Special Committee on Emerging Technologies (SCET) looked into in its “Communication 16,” titled The Future of Vehicle Fuels and Technologies: Anticipating Health Benefits and Challenges [via GreenCarCongress, PDF here]. The findings? Gas Direct Injection (GDI) may improve efficiency, but particulate matter (PM) emissions are still a serious concern. Urea exhaust treatment systems for “clean diesel” engines

gives rise to concerns regarding the formation of nitrogen-containing compounds, including nitro-PAHs, in emissions and possibly other toxic compounds.

EVs have their own issues, including electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation and the possible introduction of battery materials into the environment through production or crashes. Both fuels with more than ten percent ethanol (E15, E20, E85) and biodiesel (B20) have not been sufficiently studied for exhaust pollutants. And even in “regular” gas, the use of metallic additives has not yet been fully tested for health risks. As a result of all of these untested effects of new automotive technologies, the HEI’s Research Committee will begin study of tailpipe emissions from vehicles using GDI, Urea exhaust treatment and biofuels, and will also study the toxicity of lithium and other battery components used in hybrid and electric vehicles. hopefully they’ll find that the cure isn’t worse than the disease…

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5 Comments on “Health Effects Institute Studies The New Pollution...”

  • avatar

    another issue with PM is , that the newer engines may produce less PM on a mass -base. But the particles are smaller (=more particles at given mass) and smaller particles travel further into the lungs. Large particles (like the old diesels) likely get filtered by our nose (not that that is good, but better than going into lungs)
    Every new solution brings us new problems. Those problems mostly can be overcome and the overall benefit still is there.
    What I’m concerned about is, that most solution degrade over time. My new car meets the emission limits,  but after 10K or more miles my exhaust gets dirtier. In addition all the engines are optimized to be relatively clean in the EPA test cycle., and are pretty dirty when driven outside those test parameters.

    I learned about those issues 10 years ago as a student in class… I don’t see any new things here.

  • avatar

    All this proves is that no matter what you do, there will always be somebody telling you about the coming destruction of the world unless we stop doing whatever immediately.  Teh automobile replaced horses.  You want to talk about polution, think disease that can kill you a lot faster and more certainly than a 1 in 50,000 increased risk of cancer.

    I work in the drinkign water industry and have to hear about the latest fears about disinfection byproducts, which are produced when water is disinfected (typically chlorination) that may cause reproductive harm (though there are no conclusive studies at thsi time).  Look back in time to before chlorination of drinking water was common and you will find the mark of good drinking water was a low rate of death due to cholera and typhoid.  That’s a low rate of death.  Now even one cholera death in a developed nation like the US would be big news.

    It’s always a matter of trade-offs, some better than others and soem more obvious than others.  Unfortunately too many people are conditioned to play a blame game whenever anything bad happens and/or are unable to rationally evaluate risk versus reward.  The old have your cake and eat it too syndrome.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Environmentalists are people who want to be problems, not people who want to solve problems.

    • 0 avatar

      It sounds like someone has seen too many ‘B’ movies. How’s this for an equally cheesy counter-slogan?
      To solve problems you often have to be a problem, especially to the people who are part of the problem you are trying to solve.

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