The transport sector as a source of air pollution

R. N. Colvile, E. J. Hutchinson, J. S. Mindell, R. F. Warren

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555 Citations (Scopus)


Transport first became a significant source of air pollution after the problems of sooty smog from coal combustion had largely been solved in western European and North American cities. Since then, emissions from road, air, rail and water transport have been partly responsible for acid deposition, stratospheric ozone depletion and climate change. Most recently, road traffic exhaust emissions have been the cause of much concern about the effects of urban air quality on human health and tropospheric ozone production. This article considers the variety of transport impacts on the atmospheric environment by reviewing three examples: urban road traffic and human health, aircraft emissions and global atmospheric change, and the contribution of sulphur emissions from ships to acid deposition. Each example has associated with it a different level of uncertainty, such that a variety of policy responses to the problems are appropriate, from adaptation through precautionary emissions abatement to cost–benefit analysis and optimised abatement. There is some evidence that the current concern for road transport contribution to urban air pollution is justified, but aircraft emissions should also give cause for concern given that air traffic is projected to continue to increase. Emissions from road traffic are being reduced substantially by the introduction of technology especially three-way catalysts and also, most recently, by local traffic reduction measures especially in western European cities. In developing countries and Eastern Europe, however, there remains the possibility of great increase in car ownership and use, and it remains to be seen whether these countries will adopt measures now to prevent transport-related air pollution problems becoming severe later in the 21st Century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1537-1565
Number of pages29
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number9
Early online date13 Feb 2001
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2001

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