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You may be breathing in more toxins than you think, a new study shows. According to a review report by the European Commission, approximately 10% to 30% of a car’s worn tires are lost to the air in particles so small they can be inhaled.

The Huffington Post reports that the tire industry has commissioned several studies that suggest the inhalation of these small tire particles is safe. However, scientific studies have shown the inhalation of tire dust can be extremely dangerous.

The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that exposure to motor vehicle pollutants can cause heart problems, lung problems, and premature death. In fact, approximately 200,000 premature deaths occur in the U.S. every year due to air pollution.

Tire particles are most likely to be emitted into the air when a car’s tires are worn down and more likely to suffer damage on the road. This may not seem problematic, but recent surveys suggest that approximately 77% of all U.S. cars are in need of maintenance, meaning there could be far more tire and road wear particles in the air than we think.

However, tire and road wear particles (TRWP) have been largely unstudied when it comes to air pollution. This is largely due to the significant pollution of tailpipe emissions. Compared to the 17% of all printed documents that are considered waste, the average vehicle produces up to 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.

This air pollution has caused its own fair share of dangers. Compared to the common cold, which has an average recovery period of 10 days, the respiratory illnesses caused by air pollution are often chronic. Common illnesses caused by air pollution include lung cancer, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

But now that exhaust emissions have been brought under control, says King’s College chairperson of Environmental Health Frank Kelly, it’s important now more than ever to do research for a better understanding of TRWP’s adverse health effects.

This is especially true, Kelly says, because what goes into a tire during the manufacturing process is largely unknown. “[It’s] a bit of a black box,” said Kelly about tire materials and ingredients.

This concern with tire particles is especially important with the growing excitement over electric cars, which have been increasing in popularity in recent years. With a significant reduction in tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles have very well become the environmental vehicle of the future if not the present. However, the potential for tire materials to be just as detrimental to one’s health as tailpipe emissions may make things a little more complicated.

“In the current anti-regulatory political climate of the U.S., government officials are attempting to downplay the health impacts of poor air quality,” said Greenpeace USA project leader Natalie Nava.

“But don’t be fooled,” Nava said. “The air we breathe is important. If the government and companies fail to take action to improve our air, we will be dealing with a global health catastrophe.”