The Environmental Impact of Using Oil Additives

Did you know that adding oil additives to your car can potentially help protect your catalytic converter from clogging up as well as reducing the amount of gas your car uses?

Adding these synthetically made chemicals to your car’s engine can also reduce the wear and tear on the motor’s components as well as improve your oil’s lubrication properties and help prevent any type of rust happening inside the engine.

Depending on which type of oil additive you decide to use, they can also help reduce harmful emissions like carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) which makes these additives super eco-friendly!

One of the ways these additives achieve this is by eliminating any deposits on the interior walls of your motor. Making sure the engine is clean inside makes it far more efficient and the additives always continue to work in order to be sure no sludge ever forms after the inside has been cleaned.

But the positive environmental impact you can get from the synthetic additives only happens when you use them correctly. Using any additive you add to your car’s gas tank can have negative effects as well if you’re just adding stuff for the sake of it.

Types of Oil Additives

Right now there are a lot of different types of these additives in just about every car parts store. Each one is especially formulated to do a specific job and knowing which one to use and which one not to use is really important.

For example, if you choose an additive formulated with dispersants, these dispersants can help ‘disperse’ any build up on the interior engine walls and parts making sure the engine runs and fires as effectively as possible.

Then there are additives called Viscosity Index Improvers (VII) which work to boost the oils natural lubricating properties in order to decrease any friction which in turn means your engine needs to work less and will theoretically use less gas and produce less emissions.

The most common ones formulations used today are polybutene amine (PBA), polyol esters (POE), zinc dialkyldithiophosphates (ZDDPs), boron nitride (BN), alkylphenols (APAP), polyisobutylene succinimide (PIBSA) and ethoxylated nonylphenols (NPEO).

And although there are a bunch of strange names and acronyms to understand and learn about, it’s important to be familiar with at least the ones that you’re looking to use in your own car.

The Environmental Impact of Oil Additives

Anything that can impact the environment in a positive way is a great thing. Car emissions have always been a problem, and using an oil additive to help reduce the pollution a combustible engine creates is worth using them just for that.

But since these are synthetic compounds, that also means they don’t break down easily or at all so if they find their way into water supplies or even the ground because someone isn’t disposing of them properly, then the environmental results can be catastrophic.

Then you have the problem of contaminating plants and animals that end up absorbing these compounds. Since they don’t break down they’ll stay within whatever absorbs them and can cause all sorts of damage or even death.

So it’s essential to always use these chemicals the way they were intended to be used and not just add something to your engine for the sake of adding something. And always be sure when you are finished with the additive, it is always disposed of properly. Oil, even when it contains additives, is always recyclable. So don’t ever dump your oil anywhere other than a recycling drop off!

Oil additives can have a significant impact on the environment, particularly when they are disposed of improperly or used in large quantities. Oil additives can contaminate water bodies, soil, and air through runoff and leaching into the environment. They can also accumulate in plants and animals over time, leading to long-term effects on health and ecosystems.

This is such an important point that some countries have even banned the use of oil additives for fear of the negative environmental impact they can cause.

Health Impact of Oil Additives

Plants and animals are the only things oil additives can negatively affect. We as humans are impacted just like any other living thing by synthetically produced chemicals and they can hurt us both short and long term.

You really need to be careful with these and make sure bare skin never comes into contact with the additives as they can literally burn your skin or worse, be absorbed into the bloodstream through your skin. Yes, this can really happen!

If you do happen to be exposed to too much of these additives, some symptoms are irritation of the skin or eyes, headaches and dizziness and even nausea.

Long term exposure, especially when these chemicals are absorbed into the body can lead to cancer and other chronic illnesses, and sometimes in extreme cases even organ failure.

This is normally when someone is working as either a mechanic and exposed to these chemicals all the time, or someone who works at a manufacturing plant and again, is subject to daily exposure over a long period of time.

If you are in an environment where you are commonly exposed to these synthetic chemicals, you need to understand the risks associated with working with them over a long period of time.

Some of the risks include disruption of hormones, damage to organs and tissue, birth defects, nervous system damage, accumulation in body fat stores, reproductive harm and more.

So always wear gloves and masks in order to lessen the amount of exposure, even when just using one can in your car you shouldn’t be allowing any of the additive to touch your skin and especially your eyes.

Sustainable Alternatives to Oil Additives

Being sustainable and not having such a dramatic negative impact on the environment is always the best option when it comes to any type of chemical used in a car. That’s why many chemical and car manufacturers are always looking for ways to replace harmful chemicals with something that is cheaper to make, easier to source and doesn’t have any negative connotations associated with them.

The companies that make these types of car products can do a lot by focusing on more research to come up with less harmful additives that can do the same things as the synthetically produced ones can. This can potentially mean that we can go with fewer oil changes and for extended periods of time which results in using a lot less oil and additives. All wins for the environment!

And although oil changes may seem like a really simple thing to start with, figuring out a way to use less oil and additives can go a long way in helping our planet when you think about the millions and millions of cars today, all needing frequent oil changes.

In Closing…

We can clearly see these synthetic chemicals can have a majorly negative affect on not just our environment, but us as people as well. And when it comes to the short term benefits we need to understand if the long term costs are really worth it.

Sure, using these chemicals correctly can help maintain your car engine and make it more environmentally friendly by reducing carbon emissions and using less gasoline. But are these benefits really worth the risks, both short and long term of these additives?

It would obviously be far better to come up with an alternative that is not synthetic and can easily break down without causing a negative impact. But in order to do this, manufacturers and even we, the users of the product, need to voice our opinions and state we actually do want these alternatives.

But until this all happens, there are a few things we can do to be sure we lessen the negative impact as much as we can. Some ideas are using recycled or re-refined oils whenever possible, using certified biodegradable oils where available, disposing of used oil at approved facilities, and properly maintaining your car in order to reduce emissions.


As a user of The Automotive Men (, please note that we participate in the Amazon Associates Program. This means that “As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” We are not directly sponsored or endorsed by Amazon, but our website may contain affiliate links that provide us with a commission when you make a purchase through them. Thank you