Auto Emissions-  Air Pollution Analysis

Auto Emissions-  Air Pollution


Automobiles have revolutionized America’s economy, completely reinvented America’s lifestyle, and caused the creation of the methods of mass production we use today. Petroleum, once a practically useless commodity, is sold and bought by million barrels. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were created to fill the thousands of automobile-producing factories that have sprung up. The American lifestyle was completely reinvented to accommodate the automobile. Cities spread out, suburbs sprang up and railroads and horses faced obsolescence. Farmers were able to bring their goods to market much faster and over longer distances. Factory workers, once imprisoned to the very place they worked, were able to live much farther away while still being able to get to work on time. The automobile completely and forever changed America.


The automobile was the most defining force in America during the first half of the twentieth century. No other invention or innovation has touched as many aspects of our society as an automobile. It allowed Americans for the first time to actually utilize the freedom granted them in the constitution. Americans no longer forced to follow set paths laid down years ago. They could travel wherever they pleased whenever they pleased. The automobile allowed people to set their own schedule, and have the freedom to leave for work when they wanted, not when the train left.

America’s entire lifestyle changed with the coming of the automobile. Cities were no longer the only place to find urban comforts. People were able to live in nice, comfortable communities, instead of right next to loud, grimy factories. The automobile sparked the creation of the methods of production used even now. Without the automobile, the idea of mass production and selling a lot of things cheaply would not have been near as persuasive as it is today. The automobile has remade every part of American society. It has altered our economy, completely changed the way we go about our everyday life and has created methods that have redefined America’s industry. Without the automobile, America, and the world, would not be anything like it is. It would be a place where a daylong trip spanned only one hundred miles, a place where people would be limited in a way no one living today can imagine.


Unfortunately, while the automobile has revolutionized the world, it has also helped to alter its landscape in many negative ways. One of those negative ways is automobile emissions. The automobile takes us from point A to point B with relative ease, but it leaves an array of harmful and deadly toxins in its dust. We will explore some of those later in this report. First, let’s compare the “traditional” automobile with more fuel efficient, hybrid models.


(estimated per year)    (estimated, per year in pounds)


2002 CHRYSLER SEBRING SEDAN         644 gal $1,242             12489 lb          185.2 lb           11.2 lb 5.0 lb


2001 TOYOTA PRIUS          309 gal $596    5988 lb            162.0 lb           11.2 lb 4.0 lb


2001 HONDA INSIGHT       235 gal $453    4550 lb            162.0 lb           11.2 lb 4.0 lb


* Actual fuel consumption and emissions will vary depending on the specific vehicle configuration, how well the vehicle is maintained, and your driving habits. (See methodology for details.) Fuel cost is based on a national average fuel price of $1.93 (as of June 21, 2004, from the Energy Information Administration).


The Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid are hybrid-electric vehicles that achieve superior environmental performance. Both incorporate the best, cutting-edge, mainstream technologies available to automakers. The Prius achieves the highest fuel economy of any compact car sold in America and emits far less pollution than the typical vehicle, making it one of the cleanest vehicles available today. Just behind the Prius in terms of environmental performance is the Civic Hybrid. It also achieves impressive fuel economy and reduced tailpipe emissions, well above the average automobile.


Based on the above chart, my current mode of transportation (2002 Chrysler Sebring Sedan) consumes more fuel (644 gallons per year/15000 miles) than both the 2001 Toyota Prius (309 gallons per year/15000 miles) and the 2001 Honda Insight (235 gallons per year/15000 miles). With that increased use of fuel, the Chrysler Sebring Sedan emits more toxic emissions that the hybrid automobiles. I think based on these figures; most environmentally conscious citizens would choose to drive the more fuel efficient and earth-friendly automobiles. I certainly would, but currently, demand outweighs the supply of these automobiles and not many models are available currently.


Carbon dioxide is essential for internal respiration in the human body. Internal respiration is a process, by which oxygen is transported to body tissues and carbon dioxide is carried away from them. Carbon dioxide is a guardian of the pH of the blood, which is essential for survival. The buffer system in which carbon dioxide plays an important role is called the carbonate buffer. It is made up of bicarbonate ions and dissolved carbon dioxide, with carbonic acid. The carbonic acid can neutralize hydroxide ions, which would increase the pH of the blood when added. The bicarbonate ion can neutralize hydrogen ions, which would cause a decrease in the pH of the blood when added. Both increasing and decreasing pH is life-threatening. Apart from being an essential buffer in the human system, carbon dioxide is also known to cause health effects when the concentrations exceed a certain limit. The primary health dangers of carbon dioxide are:


Asphyxiation – Caused by the release of carbon dioxide in a confined or unventilated area. This can lower the concentration of oxygen to a level that is immediately dangerous for human health.


Frostbite – Solid carbon dioxide is always below -78 oC at regular atmospheric pressure, regardless of the air temperature. Handling this material for more than a second or two without proper protection can cause serious blisters and other unwanted effects. Carbon dioxide gas released from a steel cylinder, such as a fire extinguisher, causes similar effects.


Kidney damage or coma – This is caused by a disturbance in the chemical equilibrium of the carbonate buffer. When carbon dioxide concentrations increase or decrease, causing the equilibrium to be disturbed, a life-threatening situation may occur.


Carbon monoxide interferes with the distribution of oxygen in the blood to the rest of the body. Depending on the amount inhaled, this gas can impede coordination, worsen cardiovascular conditions, and produce fatigue, headache, weakness, confusion, disorientation, nausea, and dizziness. Very high levels can cause death. The symptoms are sometimes confused with the flu or food poisoning. Fetuses, infants, elderly, and people with heart and respiratory illnesses are particularly at high risk for the adverse health effects of carbon monoxide.


Nitric oxide does not significantly affect human health. On the other hand, elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide cause damage to the mechanisms that protect the human respiratory tract and can increase a person’s susceptibility to, and the severity of, respiratory infections and asthma. Long-term exposure to high levels of nitrogen dioxide can cause chronic lung disease.  It may also affect sensory perception, for example, by reducing a person’s ability to smell an odor.


HCs react in the presence of nitrogen oxides and sunlight to form ground-level ozone, a major component of smog. Ozone irritates the eyes, damages the lungs, and aggravates respiratory problems. It is our most widespread and intractable urban air pollutions problem. Ozone also reduces agricultural production and the growth of trees.


A number of exhaust HCs are also toxic, with the potential to cause cancer, nerve damage, and other health effects. Benzene, a known human carcinogen, is an example of a toxic HC found in vehicle exhaust.


The automobile is an important part of everyday life.  I’ve learned that the hybrid is the better choice, economically and environmentally. Unfortunately, they are not yet widely available and the current supply is far less than the demand. Until then, there are things that we all can do to decrease the toxic chemicals that are emitted by automobiles. You can help reduce air pollution from mobile sources in a number of different ways:


  • One of the best ways to help reduce air pollution is to drive less. Although cars are getting cleaner, people are driving more. Try an alternative means of transportation such as buses, trains, or bicycles. Choose to commute to work by carpooling, vanpooling, telecommuting, or by using public transportation.


  • Although many of us depend on our vehicles for work and pleasure, we can still take some smart actions to reduce emissions, such as:


o          Adopt driving practices that save gas and improve mileage.


o          Maintain vehicles on a regular basis to keep them in good shape.


o          Buy the most fuel-efficient car that fits your lifestyle.







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