Particles from car brakes harm lungs

| 23rd November 2009
Brake marks from a car

Brake wear is responsible for 20 per cent of traffic pollution

Findings highlight the importance of reducing brake particle emissions as well as exhaust to safeguard human health

Particles released by cars when they brake have been found to cause damage to lung cells.

Researchers at the University of Bern and the Institute of Health in Switzerland found that in laboratory tests the metals in brake wear particles can damage junctions between cells.

Despite being responsible for 20 per cent of all traffic emissions, the health implications of brake wear have not being studied.

In the study, 'Toxic effects of brake wear particles on epithelial lung cells in vitro,' researchers found that brake wear particles contained large amounts of iron, copper and organic carbon.

It was exposure to these pollutants that caused the damage and inflammation to the cells.

Researchers found that particles were still released even when the brakes were not being applied, indicating residual brake particles were being released from the turning axle and the braking system.

The authors said their findings showed the importance of reducing brake particle emissions at the same time as exhaust particles.

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Toxic effects of brake wear particles on epithelial lung cells in vitro

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