Meaning of Vehicle Pollution
Vehicle pollution (also transport pollution, motor pollution) is the introduction of harmful material into the environment by motor vehicles. These materials, known as pollutants, have several bad effects on human health and the ecosystem. Examples of such pollutants include Carbon monoxide, Hydrogen, Nitrogen Oxide, particulate matter, Ammonia and Sulphur Dioxide.
Transportation is a major source of air pollution in many countries around the world due to the high number of vehicles that are available on the roads today. An increase in purchasing power means that more people can now afford cars and this is bad for the environment.
Vehicles introduce toxic materials into the atmosphere through different ways. Given that they are machines, they emit several substances as waste products, and these substances are the ones that cause environmental pollution.
Causes of vehicle pollution
Unknown to many people, car pollution is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere. Vehicle pollution is mainly caused by these factors:
(i) The release of burnt fuel byproducts into the atmosphere.
Vehicles burn fuel, that is petrol, diesel or alternative energy, to power their engines and move. This is a process that yields harmful greenhouse gases that are very dangerous to the environment. The emission of these pollutants has several far-reaching effects. The type of fuel will actually determine the amount of harmful byproduct that is let into the ecosystem. Different cars have varying emission levels and the regulatory bodies try to have a maximum amount allowed for every vehicle.
(ii) Use of Non-Eco Friendly Vehicles
Vehicle pollution varies because of different reasons. Vehicles that use diesel are more harmful to the environment as compared to the ones that use petrol. This can easily be seen through the amount of ”smoke” released by these two types of cars. The quality of the fuel used also plays an important role. Poor quality fuel will lead to the release of more pollutants into the atmosphere. Old vehicles and those that are larger in size also tend to be bigger polluters and are not eco-friendly. The larger vehicles use up more fuel while the old ones are not efficient and release a lot of pollutants into the ecosystem.
(iii) Particulate matter
When you look at the exhaust of a car, you’ll notice some black substance. Sometimes a lot of it accumulates such that when the car moves, the soot is spread on the ground. This particulate matter is harmful to people’s health as well as the environment. It’s much worse when the matter is fine and can easily be carried away by moving air.
(iv) Evaporation of fuel
Sometimes when it’s hot, fuel evaporates from the fuel tank and into the atmosphere. The smell alone is irritating, not to mention what it really does to the environment. Petrol and diesel are largely hydrocarbons. They are very harmful to the ecosystem in many ways.
(v) Lack of Vehicle Maintenance
A car, being a machine, must be in good condition if it is to function properly. Badly maintained cars pollute the environment more than those that are well maintained. They load more greenhouse gases and unburnt fuel into the environment than the smaller cars.
(vi) Un-burnt Hydrocarbons
Unburnt hydrocarbons are also released by vehicles into the environment and this leads to pollution. They mainly pollute the air at the ground level since they are not light enough to rise into the higher atmosphere.
(vii) Noise from moving vehicles
Noise is also a pollutant because it upsets the peace of the surrounding. Living next to the main road, or having an office near a busy highway can be very frustrating. One can develop a migraine due to the frequent noise from cars. This happens when a vehicle hoots or hits a bump and the resulting sound interferes with the serenity of the environment.
Effects of vehicle pollution
There is a reason why pollution is considered to be a bad thing. Its effects are bad to the ecosystem. These are some of the consequences of pollution:
(i) Global warming
Emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere leads to depletion of the ozone layer and this causes global warming. The result of this is adverse weather that more often than not results in loss of life and property. Global warming is a concern for many major world governments and deliberate efforts have been made to reduce it. With the ozone layer depleted, the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun can reach the lower surface of the earth and harm humans and other living organisms on the planet.
(ii) Poor quality of air
There are countries where the quality of air is so poor that people wear masks to reduce the amounts of harmful substances inhaled. This is not something to smile about because aside from the fact that you have to walk around with a mask all day, which is not comfortable, there is also the possibility of health complications. Countries that have a high number of old vehicles generally have a problem when it comes to this. It’s the reason why many governments have also banned the importation of vehicles older than a certain number of years.
(iii) International reputation
Cleaning up the atmosphere is a serious concern globally. This is the reason why so many climate summits are held annually to make agreements on the responsibility of each nation in cutting down greenhouse emissions. A country that has a high level of vehicle pollution risks damaging its reputation and standing on the world stage.
These pollutants can lead to lung infection and cancer. As we know, hydrocarbons are not very good for human health. They can cause heart disease, aggravate asthma, damage the central nervous system and make breathing difficult. Fuel spillage can also affect the health of plants and marine life. When left unchecked, these health conditions can cause death. Treating diseases such as cancer requires a lot of money. When the population of a country is mostly unwell, the economy stalls because growth is usually pegged on the ability of people to work and earn income.
Most people would not willingly go to visit countries that they know are bad for their health. This will, in turn, result in a reduction in the number of tourists to those countries and subsequently loss of foreign exchange income.
(vi) Smog and acidic rain
Nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of highly corrosive smog that speeds up rusting of vehicles. When nitrogen oxide dissolves in rain, acidic rain is formed. Water harvested from this type of rain cannot be fit for human, plant or animal consumption.
These bad effects of vehicle pollution are the reasons why it should be every person’s responsibility to reduce or eliminate environmental pollution. The actions of a small group can put a bigger demographic in harms way.
How to reduce vehicle pollution
Even if vehicle pollution cannot be completely eliminated, it can still be reduced to manageable levels. What are some of the things that individuals, governments, and organizations can engage in to reduce the effects of pollution caused by transportation? Here are some actionable pointers:
(i) Civic education
Ignorance is not bliss and education is definitely the key to success. Many people do not care about the effects of pollution because they are not aware of them. One cannot fight to protect what he or she values without knowing that there is an impending danger. Carrying out civic education by government departments and non-governmental organizations can play a great role in awakening the society to the realities of pollution and how reducing it can make the world a much better place to live in. This can be done through community organizers or by having it taught in schools as part of the curriculum. It would be counter-productive to keep on talking about the need to reduce vehicle pollution without making people understand why that is necessary. A sense of responsibility should be cultivated in everyone so that there is a desire and willingness to do what is right.
(ii) Progressive policies
Creating good regulations that anticipate the challenges of the modern world when it comes to reducing vehicle pollution can be very helpful in mitigating it. Lawmakers should draft legislations that will make people do the necessary as far as bringing down the levels of vehicle pollution is concerned. Such laws can include placing a cap on the age of vehicles that can be imported, setting out guidelines on the conditions of roadworthy vehicles, and creating agencies that will look into alternative fuels such as green energy. On the global front, world leaders should come together and agree on standard practices for eliminating or reducing pollution. These should be adopted so that every nation does its part in achieving the desired results. Citizens should also hold their leaders to account and push them to have strategies to reduce environmental pollution in their campaign manifestos.
(iii) Vehicle maintenance
This is more of a personal responsibility than it is universal. One should ensure that his or her car is in good condition and does not release a lot of harmful substances into the atmosphere. Regular car maintenance can help in repairing or replacing worn out parts. When this is done, the vehicle performs optimally and less amount of pollutants are released into the air. Things like replacing oil filters, changing the engine oil and greasing the moving parts should be done on a regular basis. Carelessness is the reason why some vehicles release dark harmful smoke while they are moving on the roads. This is especially harmful to those outside because they inhale the smoke and the dangerous matter.
(iv) Discard old vehicles
Old vehicles should be discarded or returned to the manufacturing company so that new ones can be acquired. They contribute highly to environmental pollution and can also cause accidents on the roads. Getting rid of them would be a double win. Unfortunately many people attach sentimental value to such cars without knowing what that does to the ecosystem. A change in thinking would lead to better practices.
People from the same neighborhood and who work in the same area should consider carpooling. This would reduce traffic jams, save money used on car fuel and maintenance and contribute towards having a clean earth. That is what would really make sense. On the flip side, neighbors would also have more time to bond. This enhances unity and harmony within the society.
(vi) Alternative means of transport
It wouldn’t hurt to use alternative means of transport even if you have a car. One can ride a bike, train or bus to work. Walking is also an option when your workplace is not that far off from your place of residence. Riding bikes, as well as walking, provide great exercising and fitness regimen options. Many people leave work when they are already tired and don’t have time for fitness routines so this would make a fun option for staying healthy. It’s also cheaper as compared to using your car which would still need fuelling, maintenance and set you back a couple of bucks in parking fees. Using these alternative means of transport is the smart choice.
(v) Protective wear
In order to reduce the amount of pollutant inhaled, a person can consider putting on pollution masks. In countries where pollution is high and the quality of air is very poor, this is a common practice. Since you can’t reduce or eliminate pollution and its effects all by yourself, it would be wise to protect your health. Pollution masks help in filtering the air you breathe so that you don’t inhale a lot of impurities. The responsibility for your health starts with you.
It’s often been said that we only have one earth and we should do everything to protect it. One cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and watch because when it comes to pollution, everyone is affected, even the ones that did not contribute to it. Vehicle transportation is one of the leading causes of air pollution the world over. The good thing is that something can actually be done about it. It begins with individual responsibility in having a cleaner planet. When people change their mindsets and become more proactive, a lot of good things can be achieved. In the same manner, vehicle pollution can also be reduced and managed.