The health impacts of ethanol blend petrol

Tom Beer*, John Carras, David Worth, Nick Coplin, Peter K. Campbell, Bin Jalaludin, Dennys Angove, Merched Azzi, Steve Brown, Ian Campbell, Martin Cope, Owen Farrell, Ian Galbally, Stephen Haiser, Brendan Halliburton, Robert Hynes, David Jacyna, Melita Keywood, Steven Lavrencic, Sarah LawsonSunhee Lee, Imants Liepa, James McGregor, Peter Nancarrow, Michael Patterson, Jennifer Powell, Anne Tibbett, Jason Ward, Stephen White, David Williams, Rosemary Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


A measurement program designed to evaluate health impacts or benefits of using ethanol blend petrol examined exhaust and evaporative emissions from 21 vehicles representative of the current Australian light duty petrol (gasoline) vehicle fleet using a composite urban emissions drive cycle. The fuels used were unleaded petrol (ULP), ULP blended with either 5% ethanol (E5) or 10% ethanol (E10). The resulting data were combined with inventory data for Sydney to determine the expected fleet emissions for different uptakes of ethanol blended fuel. Fleet ethanol compatibility was estimated to be 60% for 2006, and for the air quality modelling it was assumed that in 2011 over 95% of the fleet would be ethanol compatible. Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation from ULP, E5 and E10 emissions was studied under controlled conditions by the use of a smog chamber. This was combined with meteorological data from Sydney for February 2004 and the emission data (both measured and inventory data) to model pollutant concentrations in Sydney's airshed for 2006 and 2011. These concentrations were combined with the population distribution to evaluate population exposure to the pollutant. There is a health benefit to the Sydney population arising from a move from ULP to ethanol blends in spark-ignition vehicles. Potential health cost savings for Urban Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth) are estimated to be A$39 million (in 2007 dollars) for a 50% uptake (by ethanol compatible vehicles) of E10 in 2006 and $42 million per annum for a 100% take up of E10 in 2011. Over 97% of the estimated health savings are due to reduced emissions of PM2.5 and consequent reduced impacts on mortality and morbidity (e.g., asthma, cardiovascular disease). Despite more petrol-driven vehicles predicted for 2011, the quantified health impact differential between ULP and ethanol fuelled vehicles drops from 2006 to 2011. This is because modern petrol vehicles, with lower emissions than their older counterparts, will make up a higher proportion of the fleet in the future. Hence the beneficial effects of reductions in particulate matter become less significant as the fleet as a whole produces lower emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-367
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Automotive emissions
  • Ethanol
  • Health impacts


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