Updates from Environmental Experts


Traveling at the speed of smog

Shahar Polak

Air Pollution due to traffic. Photo by everystockphoto

It’s hard to talk about air pollution without mentioning one of its largest contributors: traffic. Car exhaust from diesel burning engines contributes to roughly a quarter of air pollution. In cities with high volumes of traffic, such as London, Paris, and Los Angeles, the effects can be particularly bad. Air pollution from traffic leads to many chronic health problems. Most noticeably is an increased instance of asthma in children, according to the Canadian Medical Association. Additionally, a recent study done by the American Thoracic Society revealed that increased smog from traffic might also cause serious heart problems. The study showed a correlation between traffic related air pollution and cardiovascular disease. Clearly something must be done to reduce traffic related air pollution and its threat to public health.
There are several possibilities to cope with the problem of traffic induced air pollution. The best option to abate air pollution by cars is to use alternative fuels. The burning of diesel as a fuel is what causes smog to form. Electric cars, hybrids, and biofuel cars do not cause as much pollution, if any. However, the transition to widespread use of alternative energy in transportation is a long and winding road. In the meantime, short term solutions are necessary. One such solution, and perhaps the most widely instituted one, is to limit days that drivers can use their cars. Paris and London have both initiated policies in which daily car use is alternated according to even or odd numbered plates. This method helped reduce smog in Paris last month when the air was particularly bad. On top of that, London instituted a tax policy in 2003 to charge vehicles driving in high congestion areas during high congestion times. This is called the “congestion charge zone” and it has been very successful in reducing local emissions. It has led to an estimated gain of 183 years of life per every 100,000 residents over its 11 years of operation, according to the Canadian Medical Association. Staying informed on the many facets of traffic and air pollution is important, and BreezoMeter can help keep you up to speed!


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