Is it true that driving with soft tires wastes energy and
results in more pollution? -- Nanci Graham, via e-mail
When tires are not inflated to the pounds per square inch
(PSI) rating recommended by manufacturers, they are less “round”
and require more energy to begin moving and to maintain speed.
As such, under-inflated tires do indeed contribute to pollution
and increase fuel costs.
An informal study by students at Carnegie Mellon University
found that the majority of cars on U.S. roads are operating
on tires inflated to only 80 percent of capacity. According
to the website, fueleconomy.gov, inflating tires to their
proper pressure can improve mileage by about 3.3 percent,
whereas leaving them under-inflated can lower mileage by 0.4
percent for every one PSI drop in pressure of all four tires.
That may not sound like much, but it means that the average
person who drives 12,000 miles yearly on under-inflated tires
uses about 144 extra gallons of gas, at a cost of $300-$500
a year. And each time one of those gallons of gas is burned,
20 pounds of carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere as
the carbons in the gas are released and combine with the oxygen
in the air. As such, any vehicle running on soft tires is
contributing as much as 1.5 extra tons (2,880 pounds) of greenhouse
gases to the environment annually.
Besides saving fuel and money and minimizing emissions, properly
inflated tires are safer and less likely to fail at high speeds.
Under-inflated tires make for longer stopping distances and
will skid longer on wet surfaces. Analysts point to under-inflated
tires as a likely cause of many SUV rollover accidents. Properly
inflated tires also wear more evenly and will last longer
Mechanics advise drivers to check their tire pressure monthly,
if not more frequently. The correct air pressure for tires
that come with new vehicles can be found either in the owner’s
manual or inside the driver-side door. Beware, though, that
replacement tires may carry a different PSI rating than the
originals that came with the car. Most new replacement tires
display their PSI rating on their sidewalls.
Also, tire pressure should be checked when tires are cold,
as internal pressure increases when the car has been on the
road for a while, but then drops when the tires cool back
down. It is best to check tire pressure before heading out
on the road to avoid inaccurate readings.
As part of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability
and Documentation Act of 2000, Congress has mandated that
automakers install tire pressure monitoring systems on all
new cars, pickups and SUVs beginning in 2008. To comply with
the regulation, automakers will be required to attach tiny
sensors to each wheel that will signal if a tire falls 25
percent below its recommended PSI rating. Car makers will
likely spend as much as $70 per vehicle to install these sensors,
a cost that will no doubt be passed along to consumers. However,
according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
some 120 lives a year will be saved once all new vehicles
are equipped with such systems.
CONTACTS: Carnegie Mellon Today, “Save
Gas, Money and the Environment with Properly Inflated Tires,”
FuelEconomy.gov, “Keeping Your Car in Shape,”
COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES
running on soft tires contribute nearly 3,000 extra pounds
of carbon dioxide to the environment annually.
What exactly does “not tested on animals”
mean on a product, like a shampoo? Where can I find products
that are completely not tested on animals and are also eco-friendly?
-- James Masarech, via e-mail
Many consumer products
go through precise testing to make sure they are safe and
healthy for people and the environment before they are made
available in the marketplace. The downside is that many of
these tests make use of live animals. According to the Humane
Society of the United States (HSUS), safety testing of chemicals
and consumer products accounts for roughly 10 to 20 percent
of the use of animals in laboratories (or approximately two
to four million animals) in the U.S.
The majority of animals used in product tests are rats and
mice, but dogs, cats, sheep, hamsters, guinea pigs and primates
are also used. Significantly more animals are used in biomedical
and other kinds of research, but the use of animals in product
testing figures prominently in the animal research controversy
because it questions the “ethics and humaneness of deliberately
poisoning animals [and] the propriety of harming animals for
the sake of marketing a new cosmetic or household product,”
Governments often mandate that certain products, such as drugs,
automotive fluids, garden chemicals and food additives, be
tested on animals. In other cases, such as with cosmetics,
personal care and household cleaning products, companies voluntarily
test on animals to better understand the pros and cons of
using certain ingredients, to see what effects a given product
or ingredient will have on living systems--and to demonstrate
due diligence should their products harm someone and a lawsuit
In response to these widespread practices, advocacy groups
like HSUS and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
(PETA) campaign vigorously to eliminate or reduce the use
of animals in product testing, even recommending boycotts
of companies that continue to voluntarily engage in what they
argue is both cruel and unnecessary. This advocacy has been
effective, as more than 500 cosmetic, personal care and household
cleaning products manufacturers have vowed to stop testing
their products on animals.
In 2003 the European Parliament approved a Europe-wide ban
on the use of animals in cosmetics testing. Set to go into
effect in 2009, the prohibition also mandates that no beauty
or hygiene products tested on animals elsewhere be sold inside
the European Union. Some exemptions do exist, however, such
as products tested for toxicity or for their potential effects
on human fertility. Some animal advocacy groups see these
as unacceptable loopholes likely to undermine the ban or push
back its implementation.
In 1986 an international group of animal protection organizations
that includes HSUS formed the Coalition for Consumer Information
on Cosmetics (CCIC). The coalition urges cosmetics and household
products manufacturers to sign on to a “Corporate Standard
of Compassion for Animals” policy and agree to not conduct
or commission animal tests or use any ingredient or formulation
that is tested on animals. Companies portray the coalition’s
“leaping bunny” logo on products as proof of their
commitment. CCIC publishes a pocket-sized “cruelty free”
shopping guide which can also be downloaded from its website.
CONTACT: CCIC Shopping Guide, www.leapingbunny.org/pdf/ccicguide_full.pdf.
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