The Environmental Impact of Used Engine Oil
Used oil refers to petroleum-based or synthetic oil that has gone through the typical engine mileage cycle. Sometimes, used engine oil can be re-refined into lubricants or as raw materials for petrochemical factories. Unfortunately, used oil may be released into the environment by accident or intentionally.
Regardless, the effect negatively affects the environment, endangering the drinking water supply and aquatic organisms. If it seeps into the ground, it may also seep into the water systems. When considering what oil your car takes, storage and handling is crucial. That would help address the environmental effects of used engine oil, and the impact on local populations.
The Life Cycle of Used Engine Oil
When petroleum is mined from the ground or an offshore station, the crude oil in its base form is transported to refineries worldwide. Oil is distilled and divided according to purpose from the refineries. The heavier products are turned into plastics, tar, and bitumen. Lighter oils are processed into engine oils, aviation fuel, petroleum, diesel, and kerosene.
Engine oil is heavier than petroleum but used in the same engines for lubrication. They act as the grease so parts can operate their functions smoothly. Following continued use over a specific mileage, engine oil goes through heating and degradation. It is drained and collected. Used oil may then be re-refined into lubricants or fuel oils.
When engine oil combusts, it releases sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide into the atmosphere. Both are harmful agents that degrade the air quality and cause respiratory issues in people nearby. The burning of fuel containing carbon and chlorine produces organochlorine compounds.
These may entail dioxins and furans that pose a risk to human and environmental health. Aside from respiratory problems, other toxic responses include immunotoxicity, carcinogenicity, skin toxicity, and adverse effects on development or even reproductive systems.
Engine oil can also leak into water bodies by leaching into the soil and accessing the water table. In these cases, it finds its way into waterways and streams, eventually reaching lakes and rivers used by communities. Water with these chemicals may cause damage to the people’s immune systems through the produce they consume or through the drinking water. Alternatively, the used engine oil may be dumped into large water bodies like lakes and oceans. The chemicals it harbors are toxic to marine life, causing several species’ deaths.
In situations where soil is accidentally exposed to waste oil, it affects its capacity to hold water. That is due to the presence of pollutants from the waste oil. Significant soil parameters such as pH, density, and carbon increased. However, others like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are reduced. That means it becomes more challenging for the soil to sustain vegetation and other farming activities.
There is a significant effect on wildlife as well due to the consequences on plant life. Herbivores are wholly dependent on grass and shrubs, which, if contaminated, will cause health problems. The effect continues up the food chain as carnivores will get the same issues by consuming plant eaters. For marine life, water bodies that have engine oil traces will be uninhabitable, causing stress or severe health issues.
Regulation and Mitigation
Government authorities have regulations on how used engine oil is stored. It is illegal to store used engine oil in anything aside from tanks and storage containers. The oil may also be stored in units permitted to store hazardous waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also mandates labeling all used engine oil containers. Farmers that generate twenty-five gallons or less of used oil every month from vehicles used on the farm are also exempt from used oil generator policies.
Given these stringent regulations, there’s a growing trend towards eco-friendliness in vehicle ownership, with more people choosing green cars to minimize their environmental footprint. Used engine oil may be refined into lubricants or processed as industry raw materials. The best way to dispose of engine oil responsibly is to place it inside the container that the new oil came in and take it to the local council recycling center. Re-refined oil has a more stringent process so it can be used.
It appears similar to the original filtration, distillation, and dehydration methods. This differs because of the extraction of chemical intrusions from the latter.
By going through a similar process as crude oil, the used engine oil may become similar as the initial product. Re-refined oil meets identical standards of the new oil for it to be allowed onto the market. When one uses re-refined oil, it assures clients that their vehicles or machinery will run the same way.
There Are Many Dangers of Used Engine Oil
Engine oil significantly negatively affects the environment due to leakage or dumping. When used oil leaches into the soil, it finds its way into the water sources consumed by local communities. Similarly, if it leaches into the sea, engine oil may cause sickness and death to marine animals. Regulation can be done by adequately storing engine oil. The same also goes for handling and proper disposal, so there is minimal environmental exposure. The goal is to reduce engine oil pollution in air, land, and marine areas.