Why there’s no such thing as a “zero emissions” vehicle

The decades and dollars that the U.S. has devoted to reducing vehicle emissions and gasoline usage has been vitally important to the environment. (Despite the fact that those protections are being rapidly dismantled as we speak.)

But there’s another toxic element driving vehicular air pollution that I want to talk about today. It’s one that’s generated every single time you step on the brake…literally.

Deadly dust in the wind

It’s true: The act of braking alone emits toxins in the form of brake dust, which consists of metal particles released from the mechanical abrasion of your car’s brake pads.

Which means that there’s really no such thing as a “zero-emission” vehicle—even while Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations to limit exhaust emissions remain in place. (And as I mentioned above, there’s no saying how much longer that will be.)

Needless to say, that’s really bad news for the public health. Let me explain why…

Researchers recently conducted a series of lab tests to investigate how brake dust impacts macrophages—a type of immune cell that defends the lungs by gobbling up bacteria.

Ultimately, their findings showed that brake dust triggers inflammation that reduces the ability of these macrophages to do their job. And it appears to be every bit as toxic to these cells as particles from diesel exhaust fumes are.

Both brake dust and diesel particles fall into a category of air pollution called fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5. As I’ve mentioned here before, this is the smallest form of airborne pollution that, when inhaled, is able to settle into the deepest areas of your lungs.

So the fact that a mere seven percent of traffic-related PM 2.5 comes from vehicle exhaust—while the rest comes from road dust and the wear of tires, clutches, and brakes—is a pretty major problem.

In fact, estimates suggest that brake dust alone accounts for some 20 percent of traffic pollution. And the toll it takes on the public’s respiratory health, at a minimum, is both serious and significant.

A case for ditching your car

I can’t be the only one wondering if this brake dust is what’s leaving some of us big city dwellers with that constant froggy feeling in our throats—or contributing to strings of coughs and colds that don’t seem to affect our rural counterparts as much.

But at the very least, it’s reason to consider whether so-called “zero-emissions” vehicles are really a solution to this problem. Or if we’d all be better off just giving up our cars entirely.

For me, personally, this news threw me for a loop. Which doesn’t happen too often. Although at this point, nothing should surprise me.

If this week’s discussions have driven home anything, it should be that we’re surrounded by toxins—not just on the highway, or even outside of our homes (think pesticides, metals, industrial chemicals). But also inside of your home.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that home and personal health care products are the largest source of “toxins” that we expose ourselves to on a daily basis. They’re also the most dangerous, because that exposure is unrelenting until you take proper steps to address it.

That’s one of the most crucial conversations I have with my patients—which is why I devoted a long discussion to it in the latest issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“The invisible culprit behind diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and more than 200,000 deaths every year”).

Subscribers have direct access to that issue, as well as my entire archive of past issues. So if you haven’t yet, do yourself, your home, and your family a favor, and sign up today. Trust me when I say that you’ll be breathing easier for it.


“Brake dust another driver of air pollution.” HealthDay News, 01/14/2020. (consumer.healthday.com/respiratory-and-allergy-information-2/air-pollution-health-news-540/brake-dust-another-driver-of-air-pollution-753749.html)