Electric mobility provides a solution for air pollution by exhaust fumes, however, air pollution by disc brakes is often overlooked while it is proven to be more toxic for breathable air.
Every time that disc brakes are used, micron-sized metal particles are released into the air. The particles are inhaled by people, affecting their health and performance in work, study and life.
Study: disc brakes are a major cause of air pollution
In a study published January 31, 2017 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers described how metals from disc brakes such as copper, iron and manganese interact with acidic sulfate-rich particles already in the air to produce a toxic aerosol.
“There’s a chain reaction happening in the air,” said Rodney Weber, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences. “Acidic sulfate in the atmosphere comes into contact with those metals emitted from disc brakes and changes their solubility, making them more likely to cause oxidative stress when inhaled.”
Up to 20% of air pollution emitted by a standard car is caused by disc brakes and it’s more toxic for humans than exhaust fumes.
The researchers found that the metals given off from disc brakes damage pieces of the lungs as well as increases pro-inflammatory responses, leading to stress on breathing and on the body.
Some electric scooters provide regenerative braking, a braking solution in which the electric motor turns into a electric generator which provides braking power while simultaneously returning the generated power to the battery. While this solution reduces air pollution by disc brakes, it does not provide a complete solution. Most scooters still use disc brakes.
What solutions could be effective at preventing air pollution from disc brakes?