Tire and road wear particles (TRWP) are tiny particles that are produced by the friction between tires and the road surface, often referred to as abrasion. TRWP have distinct characteristics. They are tiny, elongated particles typically measuring around 100 micrometers. Denser than water, TRWP are a mix of approximately half tire tread material and half road-pavement material.
Since 2005 we’ve supported research into the potential human health and environmental impacts of tires throughout their lifecycle. The studies we have sponsored to-date have found TRWP are unlikely to pose significant risk to human health and the environment; however, we’re engaged in continued research to improve scientific understanding of the potential risks associated with TRWP.
To further knowledge, we continue to study the potential impacts of long-term exposure to TRWP, the degradation of TRWP in the environment and the presence, fate and transport of TRWP in air, soil, rivers, and oceans.
Below you can find links to thematic summaries of research, and links to published studies.
Tire and road wear particles (TRWPs) are generated from friction between tires and the road and contain polymer tread with pavement encrustations. Single particle analysis (SPA) of tire source contribution in environmental samples has been limited by interferences in common spectroscopic polymer techniques. This study extends a density separation and chemical mapping protocol for road simulator generated TRWPs toward the identification and characterization of individual TRWPs in more complex road dust, road-dust-spiked artificial sediment, tunnel dust, and environmental settling pond sediment samples. TRWPs were identified by a combination of physical (elongated/round shape with variable amounts of mineral encrustation) and elemental surface characteristics [co-localization of (S + Zn/Na) ± (Si, K, Mg, Ca, and Al)]. Organic surface markers (C7H7+), overlapping FTIR spectra with tread reference material, and resistance to heat-induced deformation were selectively used to confirm particle identification. The TRWP size displayed an increasing average trend of 54, 158, and 267 μm by number (94, 224, and 506 μm by volume) in tunnel dust, road dust, and environmental sediment, respectively. TRWP size distributions within road dust 10× diluted with artificial sediment agreed with those of pure road dust. Our SPA methodologies determined the size distribution of TRWPs in environmental sample types with increasing sample complexity.
Tire and road wear particles (TRWP), which are comprised of polymer-containing tread with pavement encrustations, are generated from friction between the tire and the road. Similar to environmentally dispersed microplastic particles (MP), the fate of TRWP depends on both the mass concentration as well as individual particle characteristics, such as particle diameter and density. The identification of an individual TRWP in environmental samples has been limited by inherent characteristics of black particles, which interfere with the spectroscopic techniques most often used in MP research. The purpose of this research was to apply suitable analytical techniques, including scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDX) mapping and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) mapping, to characterize the specific physical and chemical properties of individual TRWP. Comparisons of TRWP with other polymeric (polystyrene) and non-polymeric (carbon black) particle types demonstrated that a combination of physical and chemical markers is necessary to identify TRWP. Addition of a density separation step to the single particle analysis techniques allowed for the determination of average primary TRWP particle size (34 μm by number distribution and 49 μm by volume distribution) and aspect ratio (65% of TRWP with an aspect ratio > 1.5). The use of chemical mapping techniques, such as SEM/EDX and/or ToF-SIMS mapping as demonstrated herein, can support future research efforts that aim to identify complex MP.
This risk assessment addresses potential human health impact of exposure to tire and road wear particles (TRWP), which are formed at the interface of the pavement and road comprising rubber with embedded mineral from the pavement. To conduct the risk assessment, the authors reviewed literature on hazards associated with and exposures to TRWP and developed a screening value for TRWP reliant on the available hazard data and appropriate dosimetric adjustments. The species- and time- adjusted no-observed-adverse-effect-concentration (NOAEC) for respirable TRWP was 55 µg/m3. This NOAEC was compared to exposure estimates for respirable TRWP for both typical and worst case exposure scenarios based on age-specific activity patterns to determine the margin of exposure for TRWP. The estimated daily exposure to TRWP ranged from 0.079 to 0.147 µg/m3, resulting in a margin of exposure for TRWP ranging from approximately 400 to 700. Though there remain uncertainties in the risk assessment stemming from both the hazard and exposure assessments, the current weight of evidence suggests that TRWP presents a low risk to human health.
Vehicle-related particulate matter (PM) emissions may arise from both exhaust and non-exhaust mechanisms, such as brake wear, tire wear, and road pavement abrasion. This study was undertaken to quantify TRWP in PM2.5 at roadside locations in urban centers including London, Tokyo and Los Angeles. TRWP levels in PM2.5 were significantly different between the three cities, with no significant correlation between TRWP in PM2.5 and traffic count. This study provides an initial dataset to understand potential human exposure to airborne TRWP and the potential contribution of this non-exhaust emission source to total PM2.5.
Integrated models addressing microplastic (MP) generation, terrestrial distribution, and freshwater transport are useful tools characterizing the export of MP to marine waters. In Part I of this study, a baseline watershed-scale MP mass balance model was developed for tire and road wear particles (TRWP) in the Seine watershed. In Part II, uncertainty and sensitivity analysis (SA) methods were used to identify the parameters that determine the transport of these particles to the estuary. Local differential, local range and global first-order variance-based SA identified similar key parameters. The global SA (1000 Monte Carlo simulations) indicated that most of the variance in TRWP exported to the estuary can be apportioned to TRWP diameter (76%), TRWP density (5.6%), the fraction of TRWP directed to combined sewers with treatment (3.9%), and the fraction of TRWP distributed to runoff (versus roadside soil; 2.2%). The export fraction was relatively insensitive to heteroaggregation processes and the rainfall intensity threshold for road surface washoff. The fraction of TRWP exported to estuary in the probabilistic assessment was centered on the baseline estimate of 2%. This fraction ranged from 1.4 to 4.9% (central tendency defined as 25th to 75th percentile) and 0.97% to 13% (plausible upper bound defined as 10th to 90th percentiles). This study emphasizes the importance of in situ characterization of TRWP diameter and density, and confirms the baseline mass balance presented in Part I, which indicated an appreciable potential for capture of TRWP in freshwater sediment.
This study was sponsored by the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers Association (ETRMA).
Human and ecological exposure to micro- and nanoplastic materials (abbreviated as MP, < 5 mm) occurs in both aquatic and terrestrial environments. Recent reviews prioritize the need for assessments linking spatially distributed MP releases with terrestrial and freshwater transport processes, thereby providing a better understanding of the factors affecting MP distribution to the sea. Tire and road wear particles (TRWP) have an estimated generation rate of 1 kg tread inhabitant−1 year−1 in Europe, but the fate of this MP source in watersheds has not been systematically assessed. An integrated temporally and geospatially resolved watershed-scale MP modeling methodology was applied to TRWP fate and transport in the Seine (France) watershed. The mass balance considers TRWP generation and terrestrial transport to soil, air, and roadways, as well as freshwater transport processes including particle heteroaggregation, degradation and sedimentation within subcatchments. The per capita TRWP mass release estimate in the Seine watershed was 1.8 kg inhabitant−1 yr−1. The model estimates indicated that 18% of this release was transported to freshwater and 2% was exported to the estuary, which demonstrated the potential for appreciable capture, degradation, and retention of TRWP prior to export. The modeled pseudo-steady state sediment concentrations were consistent with measurements from the Seine watershed supporting the plausibility of the predicted trapping efficiency of approximately 90%. The approach supported the efficient completion of local and global sensitivity analyses presented in Part II of this study, and can be adapted to the assessment of other MPs.
This study was sponsored by the European Tyre and Rubber Manufactures Association (ETRMA).
ISO/TS 20593:2017 specifies a method for the determination of the airborne concentration (μg/m3), mass concentration (μg/g) and mass fraction (%) of tyre and road wear particles (TRWP) in ambient particulate matter (PM) samples.
ISO/TS 20593:2017 establishes principles for air sample collection, the generation of pyrolysis fragments from the sample, and the quantification of the generated polymer fragments. The quantified polymer mass is used to calculate the fraction of tyre tread in PM and concentration of tyre tread in air. These quantities are expressed on a TRWP basis, which includes the mass of tyre tread and mass of road wear encrustations, and can also be expressed on a tyre rubber polymer or tyre tread basis.
Air sample collection is on quartz fibre filters with size-selective input in a range of PM2,5 or PM10. The method is suitable for the determination of TRWP in indoor or outdoor atmospheres.
Determining accurate TRWP concentrations in sediment is necessary in order to evaluate the likelihood that these particles present a risk to the aquatic environment. Sampling was completed in the Seine (France), Chesapeake (U.S.), and Yodo-Lake Biwa (Japan) watersheds to quantify TRWP in the surficial sediment of watersheds characterized by a wide diversity of population densities and land uses. The study used a novel quantitative pyrolysis-GC/MS analysis for rubber polymer, and should provide useful information for assessing potential aquatic effects related to tire service life.
In addition to industrial facilities, fuel combustion, forest fires and dust erosion, exhaust and non-exhaust vehicle emissions are an important source of ambient air respirable particulate matter (PM10). Non-exhaust vehicle emissions are formed from wear particles of vehicle components such as brakes, clutches, chassis and tires. Although the non-exhaust particles are relatively minor contributors to the overall ambient air particulate load, reliable exposure estimates are few. In this study, a global sampling program was conducted to quantify tire and road wear particles (TRWP) in the ambient air in order to understand potential human exposures and the overall contribution of these particles to the PM10. The sampling was conducted in Europe, the United States and Japan and the sampling locations were selected to represent a variety of settings including both rural and urban core; and within each residential, commercial and recreational receptors. The air samples were analyzed using validated chemical markers for rubber polymer based on a pyrolysis technique. Results indicated that TRWP concentrations in the PM10 fraction were low, representing an average PM10 contribution of 0.84%. The TRWP concentration in air was associated with traffic load and population density, but the trend was not statistically significant. Further, significant differences across days were not observed. This study provides a robust dataset to understand potential human exposures to airborne TRWP.
Tire and road wear particles (TRWP) are a component of ambient particulate matter (PM) produced from the interaction of tires with the roadway. Inhalation of PM has been associated with cardiopulmonary morbidities and mortalities thought to stem from pulmonary inflammation. To determine whether TRWP may contribute to these events, the effects of subacute inhalation of TRWP were evaluated in rats. Particle size distribution of the aerosolized TRWP was found to be within the respirable range for rats. Toxicity was assessed following OECD guidelines (TG 412). No TRWP-related effects were observed on survival, clinical observations, body or organ weights, gross pathology, food consumption, immune system endpoints, serum chemistry, or biochemical markers of inflammation or cytotoxicity. Rare to few focal areas of subacute inflammatory cell infiltration associated with TWRP exposure were observed in the lungs of one mid and four high exposure animals, but not the low-exposure animals. These alterations were minimal, widely scattered and considered insufficient in extent or severity to have an impact on pulmonary function. Furthermore, it is expected that these focal lesions would remain limited and may undergo resolution without long-term or progressive pulmonary alterations. Therefore, from this study the authors identified a no-observable-adverse-effect-level (NOAEL) of 112 μg/m3 of TRWP in rats for future use in risk assessment of TRWP.
Pyrolysis(pyr)-GC/MS analysis of characteristic thermal decomposition fragments has been previously used for qualitative fingerprinting of organic sources in environmental samples. A quantitative pyr-GC/MS method based on characteristic tire polymer pyrolysis products was developed for tread particle quantification in environmental matrices including soil, sediment, and air. The feasibility of quantitative pyr-GC/MS analysis of tread was confirmed in a method evaluation study using artificial soil spiked with known amounts of cryogenically generated tread. Tread concentration determined by blinded analyses was highly correlated (r2 ≥ 0.88) with the known tread spike concentration. Two critical refinements to the initial pyrolysis protocol were identified including use of an internal standard and quantification by the dimeric markers vinylcyclohexene and dipentene, which have good specificity for rubber polymer with no other appreciable environmental sources. A novel use of deuterated internal standards of similar polymeric structure was developed to correct the variable analyte recovery caused by sample size, matrix effects, and ion source variability. The resultant quantitative pyr-GC/MS protocol is reliable and transferable between laboratories.
Tire and road wear particles (TRWP) consist of a complex mixture of rubber, and pavement released from tires during use on road surfaces. Subsequent transport of the TRWP into freshwater sediments has raised some concern about the potential adverse effects on aquatic organisms. Previous studies have shown some potential for toxicity for tread particles, however, toxicity studies of TRWP collected from a road simulator system revealed no acute toxicity to green algae, daphnids, or fathead minnows at concentrations up to 10,000 mg/kg under conditions representative of receiving water bodies. In this study, the chronic toxicity of TRWP was evaluated in four aquatic species. The results of this study, together with previous studies demonstrating no acute toxicity of TRWP, indicate that under typical exposure conditions TRWP in sediments pose a low risk of toxicity to aquatic organisms.
Previous studies have indicated that tire tread particles are toxic to aquatic species, but few studies have evaluated the toxicity of such particles using sediment, the likely reservoir of tire wear particles in the environment. In this study, the acute toxicity of tire and road wear particles (TRWP) was assessed in Pseudokirchneriella subcapita, Daphnia magna, and Pimephales promelas using a sediment elutriate (100, 500, 1000 or 10000 mg/l TRWP). Under standard test temperature conditions, no concentration response was observed and EC/LC50 values were greater than 10,000 mg/l. Additional tests using D. magna were performed both with and without sediment in elutriates collected under heated conditions designed to promote the release of chemicals from the rubber matrix to understand what environmental factors may influence the toxicity of TRWP. Toxicity was only observed for elutriates generated from TRWP leached under high-temperature conditions and the lowest EC/LC50 value was 5,000 mg/l. In an effort to identify potential toxic chemical constituent(s) in the heated leachates, toxicity identification evaluation (TIE) studies and chemical analysis of the leachate were conducted. The TIE coupled with chemical analysis (liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry [LC/MS/MS] and inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometry [ICP/MS]) of the leachate identified zinc and aniline as candidate toxicants. However, based on the high EC/LC50 values and the limited conditions under which toxicity was observed, TRWP should be considered a low risk to aquatic ecosystems under acute exposure scenarios.
The purpose of this study was to characterize the physical and chemical properties of particles generated from the interaction of tires and road surfaces. Morphology, size distribution, and chemical composition were compared between particles generated using different methods, including on-road collection, laboratory generation under simulated driving conditions, and cryogenic breaking of tread rubber. Both on-road collected and laboratory generated particles exhibited the elongated shape typical of tire wear particles, whereas tread particles were more angular. Despite similar morphology for the on-road collected and the laboratory generated particles, the former were smaller on average. It is not clear at this stage if the difference is significant to the physical and chemical behavior of the particles. The chemical composition of the particles differed, with on-road generated particles containing chemical contributions from sources other than tires, such as pavement or particulates generated from other traffic-related sources. Understanding the differences between these particles is essential in apportioning contaminant contributions to the environment between tires, roadways, and other sources, and evaluating the representativeness of toxicity studies using different types of particulate generated.