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Brake Particles

December 16, 2009

Pollution from auto brakes may cause health problems.


An overlooked auto emission. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

As your car’s brakes wear down, they release bits of metal and other material into the air. Now, scientists in Switzerland have found that these brake emissions could potentially affect your health. University of Bern cell biologist Barbara Rothen and her colleagues put a box containing lung cell cultures around a car’s braking system. They found that both decelerating and fully braking increased oxidative stress to the cells.

BARBARA ROTHEN (University of Bern, Switzerland):
And for the full stop, we have also seen some increase in inflammatory responses.

Over time, these effects could cause respiratory problems. Rothen says it would be technically difficult to link real-life illnesses back to brake emissions alone. Still, considering that brake particles make up 15 to 20 percent of auto emissions, the findings suggest it may be worthwhile to design cleaner brakes. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.