Analyzing roadside dust to identify potential health concerns

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Analyzing roadside dust to identify potential health concerns
Sampling containers collected airborne particles from the sides of highways in Germany as part of a study led by Penn’s Reto Gieré. The findings suggest that tire wear is a major contributor to roadside pollution. Photo: Federal Highway Research Institute
By Katherine Unger Baillie
September 14, 2018

Reto Gieré, a professor and advisory board member for the Master of Environmental Studies and Master of Science in Applied Geosciences programs, is working with collaborators across the world to identify an overlooked but significant factor in traffic-related air pollution: Tiny bits of tires, brake pads and road materials that become suspended in the air when vehicles pass over. Reto says, “To understand the potential health implications of these dust particles, it’s really important to understand what’s on the road.” Reto, along with German colleagues from the Federal Highway Research Institute, the German Meteorological Service and the University of Freiburg, sampled and analyzed the air along roadsides of two highly frequented motorways in Germany, one subject to more stop-and-go traffic and another in a more rural area bordered by agricultural fields.

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