The harmful effects of transport sector are one of the most worrisome problems in Europe. Transport produces almost a quarter of Europe's greenhouse gas emissions and is the main cause of noise and air pollution in cities.
Air pollution (PM2.5, NOx and O3) is associated with more than 550,220 premature deaths every year.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution causes:
29% of lung cancer deaths
17% of cases of acute respiratory infection
43% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Emissions from an individual car are generally low, relative to the smokestack image many people associate with air pollution. However, in urban areas, emissions from millions of vehicles make automobiles the single greatest polluter of CO, HC and NOx.
To appreciate the significance of vehicular contribution to air pollution, you need to understand the gases emitted from vehicles. RSDs measure four of the principle gases and particulate matter (PM): Hydrocarbons (HC), Nitrogen Oxides (NO), Carbon Monoxide (CO), and Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
Hydrocarbons react in the presence of natural atmospheric oxidants and sunlight to form ground level ozone. Ozone irritates the eyes, damages the lungs, and aggravates respiratory problems. Hydrocarbons and another family of gases, jointly referred to as nitrogen oxides (NO), are precursors to the formation of ozone. Ozone in its place of greatest abundance in the upper atmosphere protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, high levels of ozone in the lower atmosphere can cause health problems.
Under the high pressure and temperature conditions of an internal combustion engine, nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the air react to form various nitrogen oxides, collectively known as NOx.
Nitrogen oxides, like hydrocarbons, are precursors to the formation of ozone. NO also contributes to the formation of acid rain.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a product of incomplete combustion and is produced when carbon in the fuel is partially oxidized rather than fully oxidized to carbon dioxide (CO2).
Carbon monoxide reduces the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream and is particularly dangerous to persons with heart disease.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) does not directly impair human health, but it is a ‘greenhouse gas’ that traps the earth’s heat which can contribute to
global warming. Carbon dioxide is a natural product of human and animal respiration. It exists naturally in our lower atmosphere as a trace gas and does not directly impair
human health. It is the addition to atmospheric levels through fossil fuel combustion and climate change that is of concern
PM stands for particulate matter (also called particle pollution). It includes a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.
Some particles, such as soot or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using advanced techniques.
The smallest particles pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream. Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart.
LERN MORE ABOUT HOW WE MEASURE PM:
The most common toxic gases present in diesel exhaust include nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide.
The health effects of diesel particulates, a complex mixture of solids and liquids, are not yet fully understood. Biological activity of particulate matter may be related to particle sizes and/or particle composition.
A number of epidemiological studies concluded that exposure to fine particulate matter may cause increased sickness and mortality, such as from cardiovascular disease. Long-term exposure to diesel exhaust is also associated with a small increase in the relative risk of lung cancer.
For this reason in recent years there has been more focus on diesel vehicles, as it was discovered, through the RSD and other research that NOx emissions from these vehicles are much higher than declared.
But gasoline vehicles are not clean either. Each vehicle pollutes differently and there are huge differences from vehicle to vehicle, even within a given motorization. This is why it is important to set up traffic emission monitoring programmes. And the RSD is the most effective and cheapest way to do it.