If you have stayed in London for any amount of time or lived there, you may have experienced what Londoners call “London throat”, which includes mucus in the nose and illness. It turns out that vanadium, found in brake dust and in diesel exhaust contributes to “London throat” and also has an adverse impact on immunity.
The metal particles in the dust from worn-out brake pads on vehicles can be just as harmful as diesel emissions. Called BAD for Brake Dust Abrasion, studies done by King’s College London found that the metallic dust from brake pads cause lung inflammation and “reduce immunity, increasing the risk of respiratory infections.”
As reported in the BBC the head researcher Dr. Liza Selley stated “Worryingly, this means that brake dust could be contributing to what I call ‘London throat’ – the constant froggy feeling and string of coughs and colds that city dwellers endure.”
In her research Dr. Selley found that 55% of traffic pollution is from non-exhaust particles, and 20% of that is brake dust. The dust is caused by the friction of the brake rotor grinding on the brake pads when a vehicle is braked, and the dust becomes airborne. Her research shows that the impact of this dust is just as severe as that of diesel particles. You can read Dr. Selley’s complete study here.
What this also means is that zero emission vehicles which have been vaunted as the environmental salvo to the internal combustion engines of 20th century vehicles are still going to contribute to brake dust. This speaks to doing more with less, by using public transit in cities as opposed to individual vehicles in high density areas that are subject to vehicular pollution.
It’s no surprise that the pro-automobile lobby has come out saying that all speed bumps should be removed from city streets to minimize brake dust, as reported in the Daily Telegraph.
While that may solve one issue it does contribute to another, that of speeding vehicular traffic’s impacts on livability as well as the increase of serious injury and fatalities.
The study also shows that as zero emissions vehicles reduce auto exhaust, the impact of brake dust will be even more significant. Further studies will examine the long term impacts of brake dust on city dwellers’ health.
Images: EBCbrakes.com & Imperial.UK.com