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With this paper I hope to gain a better understanding of emission pollution and the emission testing process. With my research and my visit to the local Clean Air Car Check site, I have compiled information that will prove valuable. I will define emission pollution and the major contributors. I will answer the why we have to emission test.
I will also take you through the testing process. My overall goal of this paper is to ascertain whether or not emission testing is an effective way to reduce or prevent emission pollution when one owns a vehicle.
Emission Pollution Emissions describe the gases and particles that are released into the air by many different sources, including vehicles. According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) web site, the sources of emissions are put into four categories: point, mobile, biogenic, and area.
Point sources include factories, mobile sources include vehicles, biogenic sources include gas seeps, and area sources include dry cleaners (EPA, 2006).
For this paper, we will focus on mobile sources. Driving is the most polluting thing that we can do. The National Safety Council (NSC) states that motor vehicles release millions of tons of pollutants, classified as toxics, into the air each year. These toxics cause around 1,500 cases of cancer every year. Car emissions also contribute to acid rain and global warming (NSC, 2006).
Vehicles emanate three major pollutants: hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. The Coalition for Clean Air (CCA) web site states that hydrocarbons are defined as compounds containing various combinations of hydrogen and carbon atoms.
Nitrogen Oxides pertain to compounds of nitric acid, nitrogen dioxide, and other oxides of nitrogen. They are typically created during combustion processes, and are major contributors to smog and acid deposition (CCA, 2007). The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) website displays the text book, Chemicals, the Environment and You.
They define carbon monoxide as a colorless, odorless poison gas produced by incomplete combustion of organic matter (NIEHS, 2000). The Clean Air Car Check (CACC) web site says, “Cars and light duty trucks contribute 30-50 % of the pollution that cause harmful ozone and also contribute significantly to the amount of air toxics and particulate matter in the environment” (CACC, n. d. ). They also state that if our vehicles are properly maintained, there will be less contamination released in the air and ground water (CACC, n. d. ). What effect does emission pollution have on our environment?
The Clean Air Car Check answers this by stating, Hydrocarbons are unburned gasoline particles that contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, often referred to as smog. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas formed from partially burned fuel that can adversely affect mental function, visual focus, alertness, and can even cause death. Nitrogen oxides, when mixed with other compounds, can contribute to ground level ozone, acid rain, water quality deterioration and global warming. Ozone is an irritant produced from emissions from gasoline powered vehicles.
It can cause eye and throat irritations, respiratory distress, and damage breathing passages, making it difficult for the lungs to work. Ozone is formed near the ground in a photochemical process: 1) Gasoline, paints and solvents evaporate, thereby releasing hydrocarbons. 2) Cars and factories burn fossil fuels, releasing nitrogen oxide and reactive hydrocarbons. 3) Heat and sunlight trigger a photochemical reaction between these emissions, transforming them into ozone (CACC, n. d. ). Emission Testing The time is here again; time to take the car in to be emission tested. What a pain in the neck!
You might think that emission testing is a waste of time, and an inconvenience. What some people may not realize is that motor vehicle manufacturers are required to meet more and more severe pollution emission standards, and it is our responsibility to maintain our vehicles (CACC, n. d. ). Recognizing faulty emission control systems and having them repaired has reduced ozone emissions by more than 4,000 pounds each summer day. Testing is just part of the 1990 federal Clean Air Act. The goal of the act is to improve our quality of air by reducing hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (CACC, n. . ). The testing procedure may differ slightly depending on the age of the vehicle being tested. All vehicles, however, will get a gas cap pressure check. This test is used to see if the vehicles gas cap is keeping fuel vapors from escaping (CACC, n. d. ). Vehicles made from 1996 or newer will receive the on-board diagnostics test (OBD). This tests the vehicles on-board computer to make sure there are no malfunctions. The next test is the inspection and maintenance test (I/M 93). Vehicles made from 1981-1995 will be put on a treadmill, called a dynamometer.
The exhaust is captured to evaluate the effectiveness of the emission control equipment (CACC, n. d. ). The last test is for vehicles from 1976-1980. A metal probe is inserted into the tailpipe while it is idle and a sensor is put on the hood to measure the engine speed (CACC, n. d. ). Vehicles that were made in 1975 or older are not required to be emission tested. I recently took a trip to my local Clean Air Car Check site to watch the testing procedure. A man told me that having people stand outside the waiting area is not usually allowed, but since I was doing research for school he allowed it.
He also did not want his name to be used in my final paper. He did not want me to be in the way so he asked me to stay as far away as possible and he offered me a face mask. The first vehicle to be inspected was a 1990 Ford Ranger. The inspector walked around the vehicle with a long mirror, making frequent stops. I asked him what this step was for and he replied that it was to check for fluid leaks, holes in the exhaust system, or any modifications that may cause a safety hazard. Once the Ranger was inspected, the driver was asked to leave the vehicle and sit in the waiting area.
The inspector checked the Ranger for a catalytic converter and then attached a device to the gas cap. This was the gas cap pressure check that makes sure that no fuel vapors are escaping. After that, the inspector drove the Ranger onto a treadmill device and had attached a large hose to the tailpipe. As he watched a screen he drove the Ranger as if he were driving it on the road. Accelerating and braking when necessary. The large hose collects the exhaust to check for emissions. The inspector let the driver return to the Ranger while he gathered the results.
With a smile he politely said, “Congratulations, you passed”. The next few vehicles went through the same process. There was a different test, however, performed on a 2000 Chevrolet Blazer. After the inspector performed the gas cap pressure check, he plugged something into the bottom of the dashboard. I asked him what this process was and he said it was a scan tool and it is plugged into the OBD connector on the Blazer. He said it will read the Blazer’s computer and analyze whether or not the OBD system is working properly.
I was at the Clean Air Car Check site for a little over an hour. Unfortunately, I did not see any vehicles that were from 1976-1980 so the probe test was not performed. Before I left, I asked the inspector why diesel engine trucks do not have to be tested. He said, “Unlike regular gas exhaust, the exhaust from a diesel engine has really low levels of the carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. They just aren’t as polluting as regular cars”. Not necessarily agreeing with his last statement, I asked him how long he had worked there. He said with a smile, “10 long years.
I have learned a lot, almost too much”. Effectiveness How effective is emission testing? It is effective enough to reduce emission pollution by 4,000 pounds every summer day. I asked the emission test inspector his opinion on the effectiveness of emission testing. “If our cars were not tested, the air would be much worse. ” He said, “I think that having your car tested and repaired is keeping that much more crap out of our air”. My friend, who we will call Jan, said, “Emission testing is a big pain in the butt, and only three counties in Indiana do it, and I think
THAT alone is bull. Doesn’t make sense. I think that if they are going to do it, it should be in all fifty states, and all counties. ” She continued, “But, “if it is helping reduce the pollution in the air we breathe, I guess I will have to put up with it”. I think that testing is effective because if a vehicle does not pass, it has a time period to be repaired or it will not be able to get registered. This car will not be allowed to drive on the road, and that is less emission toxics flowing into our air. Conclusion
Emission pollution is a major issue in not only Indiana, but the rest of the country. If these toxics are released from our vehicles, and emission testing can help reduce the flow, then I strongly believe it is a step in the right direction.
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