Discover more from Learning by Proxy with Vivek Srinivasan
Dust is killing us slowly
The dust that we experience in our environment has a surprising origin and this has severe health repercussions
Given all that is going on in the Middle East, I thought I would share a link to this article from Jan 2022. From the Jewish State to the Islamic State
No matter where you live, you will have to deal with dust.
What is dust?
For the longest time, I thought dust was disintegrating mud. The mud outside the house gets broken down to such fine particles that it flies in.
I was shocked and horrendously surprised by how wrong I was.
If I was right, you should have a cloud of dust around any beach and rich people would not be seeking out those properties.
Dust is a result of fine-grained particles being thrown up in the air but it is undoubtedly not mud breaking up of its own volition and getting blown in the air. Dust is a result of the disintegration of things. In nature disintegration of wood results in the production of dust. Apart from this natural processes such as pollen production generate dust.
Most of the dust we see around us is of our own making. It is the disintegration of our furniture, the dead skin cells and hair, and most importantly clothing fibres. Along with that, you have plastics and flame-retardant materials that many of the items in our homes are made out of that produce fine particles as they disintegrate.
The worst kind of dust comes from vehicles. Not the kind that is thrown up by a passing vehicle but the kind that is produced by the degradation of tyres. Tyres are the contact surface that any vehicle has with the roads. They undergo wear and produce micro-plastic particles.
78 per cent of microplastics in the ocean come from tyres, a 2020 report from the Pew Charitable Trust found. Car tyres are made from around 24 per cent synthetic rubber - a variation of plastic made using petroleum by-products - that breaks down as the vehicles travel.
And these rubber rings aren’t just moulting microplastics. New research from Yale Environment 360 shows there is increasing scientific concern about “the chemical cocktail” that goes into them which also includes heavy metals like copper, lead and zinc.
A mass die-off of salmon in US West Coast streams two decades ago was one of the earliest signs of the environmental dangers that tyres pose.
As we make the move towards sustainable battery-powered vehicles the tyre problem gets worse since most electric vehicles are heavier owing to the weight of the battery. This causes tyres to degrade even faster.
So how bad is the situation?
Meanwhile, British firm Emissions Analytics spent three years studying tires. The group found that a single car's four tires collectively release 1 trillion "ultrafine" particles for every single kilometer (0.6 miles) driven. These particles, under 100 nanometers in size, are so tiny that they can pass directly through the lungs and into the blood. They can even cross the body's blood-brain barrier. The Imperial College London has also studied the issue, noting that "There is emerging evidence that tire wear particles and other particulate matter may contribute to a range of negative health impacts including heart, lung, developmental, reproductive, and cancer outcomes.”
Source: The Drive
The repercussions are profound. If you drive a lot or happen to spend a lot of time in traffic, you can rest assured that you are taking in copious amounts of these ultra-fine particles into your body. At 100 nanometers they would easily pass through the air-conditioning system of the vehicle no matter how many filters one uses.
We often wonder how a person who has never had a cigarette or a glass of alcohol ended up with cancer? We should also find out how many hours said person spent in traffic.
There is also a business model issue over here.
“When tire makers sell tires to the carmakers, they make very little profit. They make almost all the profit in the aftermarket. Their version of growth is to sell more tires, so they don't want them to last too long. Also, new cars are still a very small minority of all the vehicles we have on the planet. So even where we have high concentration of EV sales, such as Norway, they’re still only a small percentage of cars on the road.”
The first sale to the car manufacturers does not generate much margin they say. Hence, they are interested in making tyres that will disintegrate into dust as quickly as possible because they want customers to buy more and more tyres. Truth be told this is the story with pretty much any product.
I wonder if they would make tyres that are 5 times as durable if they were able to get a few more percentage points in margins?
At the moment, not enough research has been done to specify the exact nature and degree of harm that the tyre industry has wrought on the health of the people. Therefore, there is not much legislation or regulation around how tyres are produced and what limitations exist on them.
Any action being taken around sustainability is self-imposed at this point. Also, given the multi-decadal struggle that has been waged against oil companies with little to no outcome except for the removal of lead, the chances that major changes would take effect in this industry are as probable as politicians accepting that they have vested interests and should not be elected.
In the meantime…
In a study published in the journal Environmental Chemistry Letters, Japanese scientists climbed Mount Fuji and Mount Oyama in order to collect water from the mists that shroud the peaks, then applied advanced imaging techniques to the samples to determine their physical and chemical properties.
The team identified nine different types of polymers and one type of rubber in the airborne microplastics, which ranged in size from 7.1 to 94.6 micrometres.
Each litre (0.26 gallon) of cloud water tested contained between 6.7 to 13.9 pieces of the plastics.
Microplastics – which are defined as plastic particles under 5 millimetres that come from industrial effluent, textiles, synthetic car tires, personal care products and other sources – have already been discovered inside fish, peppering Arctic sea ice, and in the snows on the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain.
Waseda University said in a statement on Wednesday that research shows that “microplastics are ingested or inhaled by humans and animals alike and have been detected in multiple organs such as lung, heart, blood, placenta, and faeces”.
Source: Al Jazeera
We bathe in plastic, eat plastic, and are made up of plastic. We are slowly being transformed from organic beings to plastic beings!