Impacts of Transport Pollution

Category: Ecology


Transport is one of the most important elements of the material and technical basis of the social production and the necessary condition of the operation of modern industrial society since the movement of goods and passengers is done with its help. Along with the benefits that the extensive transport network provides to society, its progress is accompanied by negative consequences. The transport negatively impacts the environment, especially the troposphere, soil cover, and water bodies. Nowadays, transport is a major global polluter of the environment.

Motor Vehicles as the Major Source of Pollution

Motor vehicles are the major source of environmental pollution. The greatest air pollution comes from power plants running on carbohydrate fuel (petrol, diesel, coal, natural gas, etc). The amount of pollution depends on the volume flared and the organization of combustion. The main components emitted into the atmosphere when burning different fuels in engines of all kinds are nontoxic carbon dioxide and water vapor. However, besides them, many harmful substances are also emitted into the atmosphere. They include carbon monoxide, oxides of sulfur, nitrogen, lead compounds, soot, hydrocarbons, carcinogenic benzopyrene, and unburned fuel particles.

All vehicles with independent prime movers in varying degrees pollute the atmosphere with chemical compounds contained in the exhaust gases. The average contribution of individual vehicles in air pollution is the following:

  1. Automobile - 85%
  2. Maritime transport – 5.3%
  3. Air transport – 3.7%
  4. Rail transport – 3.5%
  5. Agricultural transport – 2.5%

The total world fleet of cars has approximately 800 million units, of which about 83% are passenger cars and 15% are trucks and buses. If the trend of motor vehicles output growth remains unchanged, by 2015, the number of cars may rise to 1.5 billion units” (Kryzanowski, Kuna-Dibbert & Schneider, 2005, 13). On the one hand, road transport consumes oxygen from the atmosphere and on the other hand, it emits exhaust gases blow-by gases and hydrocarbons due to evaporation of the fuel tanks and leaking fuel systems. Emissions from motor vehicles are distributed in the streets of cities along the roads having a harmful impact on pedestrians, residents of adjacent buildings, and vegetation. It is revealed that areas of excess of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide cover 90% of the urban area.

Damages from Road Transport

The influence of transport pollution on the environment and its negative effects on the population are extremely important. The majority of road transport is concentrated in areas with high population density: cities and industrial centers. Harmful emissions from vehicles are produced in the lowest surface layers of the atmosphere, where the main human activity takes place and the conditions for their dissipation are the worst. The exhaust gases of engines of automobiles contain concentrated toxic components, which are the main polluters of the atmosphere. The time, during which the harmful substances remain in the atmosphere is estimated from ten days to six months.

In addition to the direct negative impact on humans, emissions from motor vehicles cause consequential damages. Thus, increasing the concentration of the final product of combustion of motor fuel, carbon dioxide, leads to a global rise of temperatures of the terrestrial atmosphere (the so-called greenhouse effect). According to many experts, the consequences of this effect are such natural disasters of recent times as large-scale fires in Southeast Asia, America, and Siberia as well as floods in Europe and Asia (Austin, Brimblecombe & Sturges, 2002).

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Along with pollution of the environment with harmful emissions, the physical impact on the atmosphere in the form of anthropogenic physical fields (increased noise, infrasound, and electromagnetic radiation) should also be noted. Among these factors, noise provides the greatest impact. Transport is the main source of acoustic pollution. In large cities, the noise level reaches 75 decibel. It is several times higher than the permissible limits. The main source of acoustic pollution is road transport. Its contribution to noise pollution in urban areas is from 75 to 90%.

Along with other modes of transport, industrial equipment, and household appliances, cars are a source of artificial background noise in the city. Road transport has the most unfavorable acoustic impact. Cars are the predominant source of intensive and prolonged noise. “Over the past decade, the problem of noise control has become one of the most important in many countries” (Hester & Harrison, 2004, 29). The introduction of new technological processes in the industry, growth of power, rapidity of technological equipment, and mechanization of production processes have led to the fact that people are constantly exposed to high levels of noise in the workplace and at home. As a rule, noise has a negative impact on humans. The population of modern cities faces a serious problem of noise control. Extensive noise leads not only to hearing loss but also causes mental disorders. The danger of the noise impact is compounded by the ability of the human organism to accumulate acoustic stimulations. The constant exposure to noise causes changes in the blood circulation, heart, and endocrine glands (Kryzanowski, Kuna-Dibbert & Schneider, 2005). The most promising solutions to the problem of transport noise is reducing the intrinsic noise of vehicles and using new sound absorption materials, vertical landscaping of houses, and triple-glazed windows (with simultaneous application of mechanical ventilation) in buildings overlooking the busiest highway.

Substances that enter atmosphere with exhaust gases are settled on soil. Soils have the ability to retain and store both atmospheric and ground water enriched with chemical compounds and influencing the formation of a particular type of soil. Soil is an integral part of almost all biosphere cycles of substances. The main soil pollutants are metals and their compounds. The contamination of soil with lead is massive and dangerous. Lead compounds are used as additives to gasoline. Therefore, vehicles are a major source of lead pollution. Especially, there is a lot of lead in soils along major highways. In order to reduce environmental pollution with lead, the use of leaded gasoline must be reduced as this fuel is the source of lead emissions in the atmosphere.


Nowadays, environmental damage of transport is huge. It manifests itself in many effects including pollution of soil, water, and atmosphere. Transport creates noise and energy pollution, which leads to a significant deterioration of health and the reduction of the population. Transport has a great impact on human health. The problem of air pollution with emissions from vehicles is becoming increasingly important. Among the factors of the direct action, air pollution takes the first place, because air is continuously consumed by the living organisms. Road transport is the most aggressive in comparison with other modes of transport in relation to the environment. It is a potent source of its chemical, noise, and mechanical pollution. It should be emphasized that with the increase of the car park, the level of harmful effects of transport on the environment is drastically increasing.

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