Automobile Emissions: Effects

Automobiles are the greatest producers of harmful exhaust emissions when speaking in terms of the heavily populated areas of the United States. These types of emissions are generated by internal combustion engines—both diesel-powered and gasoline-powered—due to the mixture of fuel and air. These emissions are also produced when the vehicle is being fueled and when the vehicle stops due to fuel evaporation. The main components of truck and car emissions vary depending on the way the vehicle operates and the type of fuel inside the vehicle.

Most of the vehicle emissions that are released are typically composed of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor. Other pollutants exist in the emissions as well, some of which include particulate matter, unburned fuel, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxides in smaller quantities. Some of these substances play a major role in air pollution when speaking in terms of greenhouse gases. Scientists believe that these types of gases contribute to the climate change.

There are three main categories of gases that are a cause for concern to the environment and one’s health. These three categories include greenhouse and tropospheric gases, air toxics and solids or liquids. The greenhouse and tropospheric gases include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Carbon dioxide is produced by complete combustion; carbon monoxide is a byproduct of incomplete combustion, and is toxic; nitrogen oxides are produced by the pressure found in the engine’s combustion chambers that is caused by the interaction between nitrogen and oxygen at high temperatures; and sulfur dioxide comes from the sulfur content that is found in the fuel, and is a component that contributes to acid rain.

The air toxics include hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds. Hydrocarbons come from the unburned fuel that exists because of incomplete combustion while volatile organic compounds come from fuel evaporative emissions. Some of the components you will find in volatile organic compounds include formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, 3-butadiene, xylene, toluene and benzene. Additionally, when these components come in contact with sunlight, air pollution, such as smog, presents itself. When speaking of solids and liquids, this is referred to as particulate matter. This is simply the soot and smoke that comes from the internal combustion engines.

The pollutants that are found in vehicle emissions are a problem because they contribute to health problems and air pollution. Additionally, many of the components that are found in these emissions are cancer-causing agents when exposed to in large and on-going circumstances. The Clean Air Act came into play in the 1960s, which is when the air pollution first became apparent. This Act made changes to the way fuel was formulated, including the reduction of sulfur content, the addition of oxygenates and the removal of lead. In addition to the rules and regulations on the fuel and vehicles, there has also been the development of electric vehicles to reduce the need for fuel. When fuel is not used, there are no emissions to worry about.

Although the government has regulated a list of laws to help with the control of vehicle emissions, there are still some things that you can do to help. Look into purchasing an electric, or hybrid, vehicle to save on the money you spend to operate and drive, as well as your contribution to saving the environment. If you do not have the ability to obtain a green car, there are other ways you can modify your driving experiences to help contribute to lessening gas emissions, some of which include lessening the amount of weight you have in your car by cleaning out the trunk and driving the speed limit. When you accelerate quickly and brake hard while driving, it can burn more fuel than being easy on the car and driving smarter.


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