In 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified airborne particles as carcinogenic. Extensive research has highlighted the dangerous effects of air pollution on our health. These pollutants cause mucous membrane irritation, respiratory ailments, reduced lung function and cardiovascular problems. Especially fine particles (PM2.5) can penetrate deep into our lungs, exacerbating the damage. The World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies air pollution as the number one environmental health risk across the European Union. Urban centres are more vulnerable to pollution because of their denser populations, which leads to an escalation in the release of pollutants. Vulnerable groups include children, older adults and people with pre-existing health conditions. 

Transport-Linked Pollutants 

The transport sector is a major contributor to air pollution. Not only do vehicles emit pollutants, but roads themselves emit a range of pollutants. These come from activities such as tyre and brake wear, vehicle air conditioning and road maintenance. Primary pollutants are emitted directly, while secondary pollutants such as particulate matter are formed through chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Ultrafine particles, concentrated near busy roads, exacerbate the uneven distribution of air pollution. 

Reducing transport-related air pollution 

Various strategies are emerging to combat pollution: 

  • Congestion charging: Charging vehicles entering urban centres can discourage unnecessary traffic and reduce emissions. 
  • Low emission zones: Establishing areas where only low-emission vehicles are allowed can significantly reduce pollution. 
  • Car-sharing initiatives: Encouraging the use of shared vehicles not only reduces congestion but also promotes sustainability. 
  • Parking policies: Prioritising public transport and shared vehicles over private cars can have a significant impact on air quality. 
  • Encourage cycling and walking: Encouraging non-motorised commuting reduces emissions and promotes healthier lifestyles.

How does this relate to the LENS project? 

LENS plans to improve the current understanding of pollutant emissions from L-category vehicles by using advanced on-road measurement methods and techniques with the potential for in-field tamper detection. Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) has taken the first step in the LENS project by evaluating roadside exhaust measurement techniques (more…). This new technique will contribute to the improvement of emission factors and air pollution assessment methods and tools. 

Further readings

European Environmental Agency on Air Pollution
OECD: Air pollution and its impact on health in Europe: Why it matters and how the health sector can reduce its burden