Air polluting industries exposed by cleaner cars – University of Copenhagen

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31 October 2013

Air polluting industries exposed by cleaner cars

Air pollution

Thanks to filters and catalytic converters, exhaust from the modern automobile has become so clean that they have had a positive effect on air quality in the cities of the world. Cleaner cars however have set their high beams on other polluters. Industrial producers that use solvents are increasingly becoming viewed as the polluting sinners that they are.

New polluters presented at international conference

The fact that solvent emmitting industries are taking the place as polluter number one in cities was one of the most important conclusions of the “11th Workshop on Urban Air Quality: Impacts of Traffic, Alternative Fuels, and Solvents”, that UCPH atmospheric chemists hosted in October.

Professor Ole John Nielsen, the main organizer, explains that the new urban air quality research does not acquit cars of their responsibility. However, the research points out that the focus needs to be broadened.

"Industry’s fingerprint will become more apparent, because that of the automobile is becoming less so

Ole John Nielsen 

Professor in atmospheric chemistry

University of Copenhagen

Clear fingerprints

-Industry’s fingerprint will become more apparent, because that of the automobile is becoming less so. Industrial producers used to be able to hide behind the amounts of harmful gases emitted by automobiles, but this doesn’t hold up any longer,” says Professor Nielsen.

Many industries emit harmfull substances to air

Solvents in urban air come from a wide range of industries. First and foremost from paint and varnish production, but also from the plastics industry and a very broad range of mechanical industries in which solvents are used for the degreasing of machinery.

Solvents an increasing problem in European cities

The problem with solvents is not especially widespread in Danish cities, but in cities like London, Paris, Brussels and nearly all cities in Germany’s Ruhr region there is an increasing proportion of the air pollution comes from solvents, explains Ole John Nielsen. He hopes that businesses will improve at cleaning their emissions as a result of this increased focus on solvents.

-Decades ago, we saw another industry, that which produced Freon, suddenly come under the environmental spotlight. These businesses have now become really good at investigating the environmental consequences of their products. It took a few years, but the corporate culture changed. I am sure that the same will occur in the companies that are now being exposed due to ever-cleaner cars.”.

Popular conference in mediaeval center of Copenhagen

Professor Ole John Nielsen reports that the conference was very well-received by 40 participants from China, the United States and throughout Europe.

”We accommodated all participants in the central city and held meetings at Nørregade 10. It was something that our guests really appreciated,” concludes the professor.