Braking news: Particles from car brakes harm lung cells

November 20, 2009

Real-life particles released by car brake pads can harm lung cells in vitro. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology found that heavy braking, as in an emergency stop, caused the most damage, but normal breaking and even close proximity to a disengaged brake resulted in potentially dangerous cellular stress.

Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser and Peter Gehr from the University of Bern, Switzerland, and Michael Riediker from the Institute for Work and Health, Lausanne, Switzerland, worked with a team of researchers to study the effects of brake particles on cultured lung cells placed in a chamber close to the axle of a car. They said, "Brake wear contributes up to 20% of total traffic emissions, but the health effects of brake particles remain largely unstudied. We've found that the metals in brake wear particles can damage junctions between cells by a mechanism involving oxidative stress".

The teams' analysis revealed that brake wear particles contain considerable amounts of iron, copper and organic carbon. Exposure to these pollutants caused increased signs of oxidative stress and inflammation in the cells, and hard braking caused most exposure. Interestingly, some exposure still occurred even when the brakes were not being applied, presumably due to residual brake particles coming off the turning axle and the braking system.

A direct comparison to other (model) particles known to cause these stress effects in vitro was not done, so comparative statements cannot yet be made. The researchers hope that future studies will be able to determine exactly which components are involved in each cell-stress pathway. According to Rothen-Rutishauser and Riediker, "Just as for exhaust particles, efforts to diminish brake will lead to an improved ambient air quality and so could provide better protection of human health".

More information: Toxic effects of brake wear particles on epithelial in vitro, Michael Gasser, Michael Riediker, Loretta Mueller, Alain Perrenoud, Fabian Blank, Peter Gehr and Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser, Particle and Fibre Toxicology (in press), http://www.particleandfibretoxicology.com/

Source: BioMed Central (news : web)

Explore further: Wonder Wedge on Wheels — Braking Without Hydraulics

Related Stories

Wonder Wedge on Wheels — Braking Without Hydraulics

September 26, 2005

With its EWB (Electronic Wedge Brake), Siemens is aiming for a revolution in braking system technology for passenger cars. Compared to today’s hydraulic brakes, the EWB is more efficient, responds faster, requires far less ...

Underground air might cause DNA damage

December 15, 2006

Our everyday environments are full of airborne particles that are harmful to varying degrees when inhaled. Particularly damaging to our cellular DNA are the particles from the underground system in Stockholm, Sweden, according ...

New brake light system could mean fewer collisions

March 23, 2007

A dynamic brake light system that enables rear lights on a leading vehicle to contract or expand during hard braking could help lessen how often rear-end automobile collisions occur, says new research from the University ...

Diesel exhaust inhalation stresses your brain

March 11, 2008

If the smell of diesel exhaust isn't enough to make you avoid getting a lungful, new research now shows that even a short exposure to the fumes can affect your brain. A study published in the open access journal Particle ...

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.