British Government Sounds Alarm On Brake Dust

LONDON, U.K.–A British government group has issued a warning and advisory about brake dust that is pretty self evident–that brake dust pollution will be a factor even as the auto fleet coverts to electric vehicles.

Fragments of micro-plastics from tires, road surfaces and brakes will also flow into rivers, and ultimately into the sea, government advisers say in a new report.

It is unclear why the government agency is linking brake dust pollution, which has been well established in the European Union and the U.S. to the electrification of the fleet, except to point out that vehicles will still be polluting even when they run on batteries. Nevertheless, government ministers say they want to pass standards to improve tires and brakes.

The government’s Air Quality Expert Group said particles from brake wear, tire wear and road surface wear directly contribute to well over half of particle pollution from road transport.

They warn: “No legislation is currently in place specifically to limit or reduce [these] particles….So while legislation has driven down emissions of particles from exhausts, the non-exhaust proportion of road traffic emissions has increased.”

The report goes on to say that the percentage of pollutants will get proportionally higher as vehicle exhausts are cleaned up more.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said : “The documents published today make clear that it is not just fumes from car exhaust pipes that have a detrimental impact on human health but also the tiny particles that are released from their brakes and tires.

“Emissions from car exhausts have been decreasing through development of cleaner technologies – and there is now a need for the car industry to find innovative ways to address the challenges of air pollution from other sources”.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “The industry is committed to improving air quality and has already all but eliminated particulate matter from tailpipe emissions.

“Brake, tire and road wear is a recognized challenge as emissions from these sources are not easy to measure.”

The industry has already been innovating solutions to substantially reduce brake dust pollution. And governments, California for example, are already ahead of others on compelling automakers and friction industry suppliers to come up with solutions.

Volkswagen, for example, is the first manufacturer to start testing a brake dust collection unit.

David Kiley
David Kiley

David Kiley is Chief of Content for The BRAKE Report. Kiley is an award-winning business journalist and author, having covered the auto industry for USA Today, Businessweek, AOL/Huffington Post, as well as written articles for Automobile and Popular Mechanics.