Vehicular Pollution

Vehicular Pollution

Vehicular pollution is the introduction of harmful material into the environment by motor vehicles. These materials, known as pollutants, have several bad effects on human health and the ecosystem. Transportation is a major source of air pollution in many countries around the world due to the high number of vehicles that are available on the roads today. An increase in purchasing power means that more people can now afford cars and this is bad for the environment. Vehicular pollution has grown at an alarming rate due to growing urbanisation in India. The air pollution from vehicles in urban areas, particularly in big cities, has become a serious problem. The pollution from vehicles has begun to tell through symptoms like cough, headache, nausea, irritation of eyes, various bronchial and visibility problems.

Ingredients of Vehicular Pollution

The following are the major pollutants associated with motor vehicles:

  • Ozone- The primary ingredient in urban smog, ozone is created when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides—both of which are chemicals released by automobile fuel combustion—react with sunlight. Though beneficial in the upper atmosphere, at the ground level ozone can irritate the respiratory system, causing coughing, choking, and reduced lung capacity.
  • Particulate matter- These particles of soot, metals, and pollen give smog its murky color. Among vehicular pollution, fine particles pose the most serious threat to human health by penetrating deep into lungs.
  • Nitrogen oxides- These vehicular pollutants can cause lung irritation and weaken the body's defenses against respiratory infections such as pneumonia and influenza. In addition, they assist in the formation of ozone and particulate matter.
  • Carbon monoxide- This odorless, colorless gas is formed by the combustion of fossil fuels such as gasoline. Cars and trucks are the source of nearly two-thirds of this pollutant. When inhaled, CO blocks the transport of oxygen to the brain, heart, and other vital organs in the human body. Newborn children and people with chronic illnesses are especially susceptible to the effects of CO.
  • Sulfur dioxide- Motor vehicles create this pollutant by burning sulfur-containing fuels, especially diesel. It can react in the atmosphere to form fine particles and can pose a health risk to young children and asthmatics.
  • Hazardous air pollutants- These chemical compounds, which are emitted by cars, trucks, refineries, gas pumps, and related sources.

Causes of Vehicular Pollution

The main cause of vehicular pollution is the rapidly growing number of vehicles. The other factors of vehicular pollution in the urban areas are 2-stroke engines, poor fuel quality, old vehicles, inadequate maintenance, congested traffic, poor road condition and old automotive technologies and traffic management system.

Effects of Vehicular Pollution

These are some of the consequences of pollution:

(i) Global warming

Emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere leads to depletion of the ozone layer and this causes global warming. The result of this is adverse weather that more often than not results in loss of life and property. Global warming is a concern for many major world governments and deliberate efforts have been made to reduce it. With the ozone layer depleted, the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun can reach the lower surface of the earth and harm humans and other living organisms on the planet.

(ii) Poor quality of air

There are countries where the quality of air is so poor that people wear masks to reduce the amounts of harmful substances inhaled. This is not something to smile about because aside from the fact that you have to walk around with a mask all day, which is not comfortable, there is also the possibility of health complications. Countries that have a high number of old vehicles generally have a problem when it comes to this. It’s the reason why many governments have also banned the importation of vehicles older than a certain number of years.

(iii) International reputation

Cleaning up the atmosphere is a serious concern globally. This is the reason why so many climate summits are held annually to make agreements on the responsibility of each nation in cutting down greenhouse emissions. A country that has a high level of vehicle pollution risks damaging its reputation and standing on the world stage.

(iv) Health

These pollutants can lead to lung infection and cancer. As we know, hydrocarbons are not very good for human health. They can cause heart disease, aggravate asthma, damage the central nervous system and make breathing difficult. Fuel spillage can also affect the health of plants and marine life. When left unchecked, these health conditions can cause death. Treating diseases such as cancer requires a lot of money. When the population of a country is mostly unwell, the economy stalls because growth is usually pegged on the ability of people to work and earn income.

(v) Tourism

Most people would not willingly go to visit countries that they know are bad for their health. This will, in turn, result in a reduction in the number of tourists to those countries and subsequently loss of foreign exchange income.

(vi) Smog and acidic rain

Nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of highly corrosive smog that speeds up rusting of vehicles. When nitrogen oxide dissolves in rain, acidic rain is formed. Water harvested from this type of rain cannot be fit for human, plant or animal consumption. These bad effects of vehicle pollution are the reasons why it should be every person’s responsibility to reduce or eliminate environmental pollution. The actions of a small group can put a bigger demographic in harms way.

Reduction of Vehicular Pollution

Even if vehicle pollution cannot be completely eliminated, it can still be reduced to manageable levels. What are some of the things that individuals, governments, and organizations can engage in to reduce the effects of pollution caused by transportation? Here are some actionable pointers:

(i) Civic education

Ignorance is not bliss and education is definitely the key to success. Many people do not care about the effects of pollution because they are not aware of them. One cannot fight to protect what he or she values without knowing that there is an impending danger. Carrying out civic education by government departments and non-governmental organizations can play a great role in awakening the society to the realities of pollution and how reducing it can make the world a much better place to live in. This can be done through community organizers or by having it taught in schools as part of the curriculum. It would be counter-productive to keep on talking about the need to reduce vehicle pollution without making people understand why that is necessary. A sense of responsibility should be cultivated in everyone so that there is a desire and willingness to do what is right.

(ii) Progressive policies

Creating good regulations that anticipate the challenges of the modern world when it comes to reducing vehicle pollution can be very helpful in mitigating it. Lawmakers should draft legislations that will make people do the necessary as far as bringing down the levels of vehicle pollution is concerned. Such laws can include placing a cap on the age of vehicles that can be imported, setting out guidelines on the conditions of roadworthy vehicles, and creating agencies that will look into alternative fuels such as green energy. On the global front, world leaders should come together and agree on standard practices for eliminating or reducing pollution. These should be adopted so that every nation does its part in achieving the desired results. Citizens should also hold their leaders to account and push them to have strategies to reduce environmental pollution in their campaign manifestos.

(iii) Vehicle maintenanceM

This is more of a personal responsibility than it is universal. One should ensure that his or her car is in good condition and does not release a lot of harmful substances into the atmosphere. Regular car maintenance can help in repairing or replacing worn out parts. When this is done, the vehicle performs optimally and less amount of pollutants are released into the air. Things like replacing oil filters, changing the engine oil and greasing the moving parts should be done on a regular basis. Carelessness is the reason why some vehicles release dark harmful smoke while they are moving on the roads. This is especially harmful to those outside because they inhale the smoke and the dangerous matter.

(iv) Discard old vehicles

Old vehicles should be discarded or returned to the manufacturing company so that new ones can be acquired. They contribute highly to environmental pollution and can also cause accidents on the roads. Getting rid of them would be a double win. Unfortunately many people attach sentimental value to such cars without knowing what that does to the ecosystem. A change in thinking would lead to better practices.

(v) Carpooling

People from the same neighborhood and who work in the same area should consider carpooling. This would reduce traffic jams, save money used on car fuel and maintenance and contribute towards having a clean earth. That is what would really make sense. On the flip side, neighbors would also have more time to bond. This enhances unity and harmony within the society.

(vi) Alternative means of transport

It wouldn’t hurt to use alternative means of transport even if you have a car. One can ride a bike, train or bus to work. Walking is also an option when your workplace is not that far off from your place of residence. Riding bikes, as well as walking, provide great exercising and fitness regimen options. Many people leave work when they are already tired and don’t have time for fitness routines so this would make a fun option for staying healthy. It’s also cheaper as compared to using your car which would still need fuelling, maintenance and set you back a couple of bucks in parking fees. Using these alternative means of transport is the smart choice.

(vii) Protective wear

In order to reduce the amount of pollutant inhaled, a person can consider putting on pollution masks. In countries where pollution is high and the quality of air is very poor, this is a common practice. Since you can’t reduce or eliminate pollution and its effects all by yourself, it would be wise to protect your health. Pollution masks help in filtering the air you breathe so that you don’t inhale a lot of impurities. The responsibility for your health starts with you.


It’s often been said that we only have one earth and we should do everything to protect it. One cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and watch because when it comes to pollution, everyone is affected, even the ones that did not contribute to it. Vehicle transportation is one of the leading causes of air pollution the world over. The good thing is that something can actually be done about it. It begins with individual responsibility in having a cleaner planet. When people change their mindsets and become more proactive, a lot of good things can be achieved. In the same manner, vehicle pollution can also be reduced and managed.

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Mr. Govind Singh Chauhan
Assistant Professor
Deptt. of Civil Engineering
Faculty of Engineering and Technology
Madhav University