Travel by motor vehicles – whether it’s the journeys we make everyday, or the transport of goods across the world – is a major cause of pollution. That pollution affects our health and the health of our planet.
The exhaust fumes from a car or lorry’s engine contains a large number of different chemicals or emissions. Once released into the air, exhaust emissions are breathed in and transported in the bloodstream to all the body's major organs. Diesel seems potentially to be more of a problem than petrol.
The most obvious health impact of car emissions is on the respiratory system. It's estimated that air pollution - of which vehicle emissions are the major contributor - is responsible for 24,000 premature deaths in the UK every year. Many of these deaths are due to asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases - all of which are known to be aggravated by exposure to car fumes.
And just as exhaust emissions can harm our health, they harm the planet’s health. In the 21% of the greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide and methane) emitted in the UK are from motor vehicles. These greenhouse gasses are contributing to changes in climate, affecting people all over the world, but especially in developing countries.
Over the next week, we’re going to look at ways that we can reduce the greenhouses gasses we produce when we travel, to help protect our environment.