How lubricants can be dangerous for human health?

Muscat: As the number of vehicles on the Sultanate’s roads is increasing, the demand for lubricant oils to maintain vehicles engines also increase automatically. According to ‘Lynx’, the monthly newsletter of the National Field Research Center for Environment Conservation, vehicles on roads consume large quantities of lubricating oil, some 30,000 tones annually, creating a different type of environmental threats if not disposed in a right way.

According to the “Lynx” report, the risks of used oil are numerous. It poses both direct and indirect risks on human health and adversely affects agricultural lands and water also.

“Used oil needs years to decompose. One gallon of used oil can pollute a million gallons of water. Used oil also kills the microorganisms existing in the soil. It covers the leaves of trees with an oil layer, which impedes the growth process and leads to the death of plants and consequently to destruction of the soil. As well, it may reach wells and Aflaj to cause the death of all forms of aquatic life, as these oils prevent oxygen from reaching such organisms. In addition, these oils increase the activity of the anaerobic bacteria that cause water poisoning and make wells and Aflaj invalid for human use.”

If the used vehicle oil reached the marine environment, it would cause death of birds that live on the water surface which dive in order to obtain food. It also leads to the death of fish and marine creatures, as the effect of used vehicle oil extends to the beaches and thus affects the general view and marine tourism. The additives in the lubricating oils can be toxic to plants and animals, as engine oil accumulates a group of dangerous pollutants when used in engines and transmissions. Such pollutants include lead, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, dioxin, gasoline, and polycyclic aromatics. These pollutants work when disposing of in ways that are not safe to cause direct and indirect damage to the environment and its components.

For this reason, several local companies buy these oils and recycle them to extract reused-base oil in the modern oil industry.  According to ‘Lynx, 60 per cent of the burned oils are used while 40 per cent of them go to the landfill designated for hazardous waste in Sohar willayat.

The used oil market witnesses strong competition between companies operating in this field because of the availability of technologies used in recycling and because of the fertile environment of investment for such industry.

So how does the recycling works? The process starts with collecting used oils and passing them through several manufacturing stages that include filtering, hydrogenation and mixing to extract materials that can be reused after separated from non-useful materials.

The process of recycling vehicles’ oils aims to reduce the rate of waste and ensure that it does not reach agricultural land, ground water and surface water. “Recycled oils are used to provide energy for several industries such as cement and iron factories. These factories are required to have special purifiers to remove airborne toxic pollutants, as the process of burning oil to generate Electrical energy without the presence of purification devices leads to air pollution, because oils contain toxic substances and heavy metal compounds that affect human health and nature. The benefits of recycling oils are not limited to protecting the environment, but it also brings economic returns” the report said.

Oman Environment Services Holding Company, Bee’ah is currently focusing on the oils used to lubricate car engines, explaining that the quantities produced from vehicle lubricants are currently up to 30,000 tons annually. The Company is currently developing an integrated system through which it aims to build efficiencies from small and medium companies to provide best practices in the collection and disposal of lubricant oils.  Getting rid of used vehicle oil, according to Bee’ah, can be done through two methods: first; the treatment of used vehicles oil to extract the base oil that can be reused in producing oils used in several fields such as construction or manufacturing and others. Second; is recovering of its calorific value through using it as a fuel in a closed system that prevents the release of hazardous emissions into the environment.