Lettuce takes up toxic additives from tire wear

by University of Vienna

Credit: University of Vienna

Wind, sewage sludge, and waste water carry tire wear particles from roads onto farmland. A new lab study shows that the pollutants contained in the particles could get into the vegetables grown there. Researchers at the Center for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science (CMESS) at the University of Vienna have investigated whether chemicals released from tires find their way into lettuce plants and could ultimately end up on our plates.

Their analyses showed that the lettuce took up all the compounds studied—some of them highly toxic. Further investigations will focus on showing how this process actually takes place in arable soils. The study has now been published in the international journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Driving a car produces tire wear particles, which are blown into the environment by the wind and washed into rivers and sewage by the rain—in total around 1 kg per citizen per year. Through the atmosphere and with the waste water or the sewage sludge used as fertilizer in agriculture, the tire particles can reach agricultural soils. There, potentially harmful chemicals might be released from the tire into the environment.

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