From tires to brakes, U of T researchers tackle ‘non-tailpipe’ air pollution from vehicles

With the increasing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs), car-related air pollution will be less of a concern, right? Think again, say a group of University of Toronto researchers who are studying the effects of air pollution from brakes and tires.

While the push to mandate EVs aims to reduce tailpipe emissions such as carbon dioxide — the federal government has set a target of complete EV adoption by 2035 — swapping every vehicle on the road still won’t eliminate all the sources of air pollution that can impact human health.

That’s because brake pads, rotors and tires grind down over time and erode. This results in tons of particulate matter, such as heavy metals and microplastics, polluting the air.

“Millions of tires being driven on the road breaking down — that’s a problem,” says Matt Adams (UTM Geography, Geomatics and Environment).  “It’s an emerging question in the field: it’s hard to know where the particles end up.”

Adams and Greg Evans (ChemE, ISTEP) belong to a team of U of T researchers who are conducting a three-year study to learn more about tailpipe vs. non-tailpipe emissions. The study is for a U.S.-based organization called the Health Effects Institute, which gathers research on the effects of air pollution.

Other researchers include Professors Marianne Hatzopoulou (CivMin), Arthur Chan (ChemE) and Meredith Franklin (Statistical Sciences), as well as McGill University’s Scott Weichenthal and University of Barcelona visiting professor Maria Pérez. Read the full U of T Engineering News story.