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Chemists Detect Toxic Emissions Linked to Catalytic Converters in US

A study scheduled for publication in the 15 Dec issue of the American Chemical Society’s journal, Environmental Science and Technology, shows that for the first time, toxic metals emitted from automotive catalytic converters have been detected in urban air in the United States. Catalytic converters are used to reduce emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants.

The research was done by Swedish scientists working in collaboration with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The researchers found high concentrations of platinum, palladium, rhodium and osmium in air over the Boston metropolitan area.

Although these particles—known as platinum group elements—are not yet considered a serious health risk, evidence suggests they potentially could pose a future danger as worldwide car sales increase from an estimated 50 million in 2000 to more than 140 million in 2050.

Finding ways to stabilize these metal particles within the converters “should be a priority to limit their potential impact,” says lead researcher Sebastien Rauch, Ph.D., of Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg.

In addition to the United States—where catalytic converters were first introduced—scientists have also detected elevated concentrations of these elements in Europe, Japan, Australia, Ghana, China and Greenland.


henk daalder

Quite mindless to even think that regular ICE's still exist in 2050.
By that time there are no US citizins left that can afford todays fuel.


I agree. But then I thought we would have transitioned to a different propulsion mode or even transportation mode by 2005. Riding my bicycle to work in 1975, I thought I was at the leading edge of a new wave. Such naivete.


"Quite mindless to even think that regular ICE's still exist in 2050.
By that time there are no US citizins left that can afford todays fuel."
LOL Can I quote you on that in 2050?


Things tend to change over time. Maybe you haven't lived long enough to notice that yet?


I am sure there will be many vehicles not using gasoline as thier fuel, however the ICE has been powering US transportation for 100 years; I don't think that an other 45 years will see it's end in totality.

The standard rule of thumb is that it takes 30 years for a new technology to become common-place once it's in a finalized form... the closest two replacements to ICEs are fuel cells and just electric... neither is ready to begin it's 30 year approach just yet. Earliest projection I've seen so far for a consumer grade fuel cell vehicle is 2015 (Honda) ... which means ~2045 before they are commonplace... and thus well past 2050 before ICEs are completely gone. Not to mention many companis are still researching hydrogen ICEs. And of course collectors... there are still many 1920s ICEs on our streets :)

As for pure economics causing the switch from gasoline; That isn't real likely... hydrogen is still more exspensive than gasoline; even in countries like Japan and the UK with outragious gasoline taxes. People really like thier gasoline powered vehicles and aren't going to switch until the total cost of ownership AND the power/versatility of alternatives are equal to, or better than, what they have now; And of course, as others switch over to non-gasoline... gasoline will become cheaper for those still using it.

So in 2050, I think it is very likely that there will still be ICE vehicles being made and sold. Especially outside of the EU, US, and Canada.


I wonder if they checked for barium and aluminum in the air?

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