What do cars do to the atmosphere?

bethia54538 asked this question on 4/7/2000:

What are the adverse effects on the atmosphere from driving a car? (internal combustion)i have to write an essay for my scince class on this subject so please be quick and give me as much info. as possible.

JesseGordon gave this response on 4/10/2000:

Here's an outline of topics for you to research -- enough to get you started.

1) Soot: When cars don't completely burn hydrocarbons, or when they burn oil from the engine, you get soot. Bad for visibiilty and odors, but not a big air pollutant.

2) Ozone: This is the same stuff that's "good" in the ozone layer, but is a component of smog when near the surface. If your catalytic converter is working well, you end up with no ozone output.

3) Nitrogen oxides: Bad for smog (it creates more ozone) and bad for health. Also mostly eliminated by properly functining catalytic converters.

3) Lead: Gasoline used to have "tetra-ethyl lead" in it to make it more powerful. It's almost entirely gone in the US, but it's still used heavilt abroad. It creates lead-containing dust throughout the environment; lead causes all sorts of health problems associated with "heavy metals". Catalytic converters won't work if there's lead in the gas (because they use platinum, another heavy metal, that the lead messes up); that's one reason we eliminated lead.

4) Carbon dioxide: This one can't get eliminated by catalytic converters, and if they're functioning well you get even more of it. It's the least bad pollutant in terms of smog (we breathe it out of our lungs too) but it's the main source of global warming.

5) Sulfur dioxide: this is the main component of "acid rain." Not much comes out of cars, but a lot comes out of smokestacks.

Return to index