As well as tailpipe emissions, cars and other vehicles throw off metal pollutants from wear on various parts. Despite European regulations requiring cleaner materials in vehicles, a study in Stockholm shows that tires are a significant source of cadmium, while brake pads emit a variety of other metals.
Bo Bergbäck and his colleagues at the University of Kalmar in Sweden analyzed metals in tires and brake-pad linings. They used average wear and replacement patterns for the parts, along with national traffic data for 2005, to estimate the quantities of various metals dispersed into the environment. The team compared its findings with data obtained in the 1990s.
Besides being a well-studied city in terms of environmental impacts, Bergbäck says, Stockholm represents "an average city in many respects," making the data relevant to other urban areas.