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Atmospheric Modeling and Analysis Research

Research in Action

Researchers Examine Nonaparticles' Impact on Fuel Emissions and Air Pollution

Issue

Particulate matter, or PM — a major component of air pollution — has many sources. It can originate from natural processes, like forest fires and wind erosion, and from human activities, like agricultural practices, smokestacks, construction, and car emissions.  Exposure to air with high levels of PM can result in respiratory health problems and depressed cardio-vascular function.

Private industry has developed several fuel additives designed to decrease the amount of PM in diesel exhaust and increase fuel efficiency. Several of these use a nanoparticle called cerium oxide as their active ingredient. Currently, little is known about the impact of cerium oxide nanoparticles on human health and the environment. To assess this, especially in environments near roadways where people may face higher levels of exposure, scientists need to understand how these nanoparticles affect motor vehicle exhaust and air quality, and how they behave in environments near roadways.

Action

EPA scientists are working with colleagues in the U.K. to sample air in areas in England where cerium oxide-based fuel additives are being used in diesel buses. Using data collected in this study, the scientists are building a model to examine how cerium oxide changes fuel emissions — including the size and composition of particles and gases emitted. Researchers are also looking at how these particles move from roadways to areas near roads where people may live and work.

Results and Impacts

Preliminary results indicate that there may be significant differences in the size and composition of particles emitted from engines using cerium-oxide fuel additives.  Study results are expected in late 2012 and should provide information to inform future research directions, including explorations of potential human health impacts, if necessary.

 

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