We spend most of our time indoors breathing polluted air. Cars do not protect their passengers from pollution. On the contrary, they prevent pollutants from evacuating. Do not underestimate the dangers you face.
Toxic gases in your car
Air pollution in cars is a typical issue. Last summer, the secretary of the ASEF said “Those who travel by car are exposed to toxic gases.” The FDA launched an awareness campaign “The driver is exposed to four times higher pollution levels than those walking.” Inserm researchers have brought progress in the understanding of pollutants exposure. For two months, a test car was in operation around Paris and Rouen. Air concentrations of entering pollutants were measured and compared to existing regulations. The results, which were far superior to those seen with fixed stations, have demonstrated an overexposure of pollutants in the car.
What the study says
- Concerning nitrogen dioxide, the WHO value of 200 μg/m3 (hourly average) is generally exceeded for every hour spent in the vehicle
- In daily traffic, the nitrogen dioxide levels are 10 times higher inside than outside cars.
- Behind heavy trucks and diesel cars, these levels are 65 times higher than the WHO value.
- Concerning fine particles, their maximum concentration is reached on motorways and in tunnels.
- The average levels of benzene remain high despite the diminution of emitter fuels.
What are the risks to human health? What can you do to protect yourself against them?
In your car, the three main pollutants are nitrogen dioxide (NO2), fine particles and benzene.
- Nitrogen dioxide is an irritant gas which causes breathing problems, lung infections and asthma attacks.
- The fine particles penetrate more or less deeply into the respiratory system. Some of these particles have mutagenic and carcinogenic properties.
- Benzene causes leukemia.
Click here to learn more about the various pollutants, Are we too careful?
6 good reflexes to adopt
- Avoid peak times, traffic jams and tunnels.
- Ventilate on the outskirts
- Do not smoke in your car
- Stop the outdoor air in tunnels, traffic jams or when there is a polluting car in front of yours
- Clean your car by vacuuming carpet and rugs
- Use a car air purifier
The ionizer will be soon unavoidable
Most cars with an air-conditioning system have an air filter. For the ASEF, one cannot count on it to be protected from pollution. This is all the more true given that the air-conditioning is up to full speed in hot weather. Then, even the air purifiers that some manufacturers integrate into the vehicle are not efficient. Air ionization allows us to treat pollution directly in the vehicle. This is the reason why this technology is actually in vogue.
Those who travel by car experience the highest pollution levels. The exhaust from other vehicles enters from in front and behind and does not disperse.
Air is slightly less polluted inside a bus. With an average concentration of nitrogen dioxide of 62 µg/m3, being inside a bus does not protect passengers from traffic fumes.
The air underground has the highest levels of particles than anywhere at street level – 292 292 µg/m3. This result is 10 times higher than the OMS 24 hours regulation and 5 times higher than the average levels in cars. But the average levels of nitrogen dioxide remain low – 22 µg/m3.
Those who cycle breath the cleaner air. Indeed, fumes are able to disperse as they rode along. But take care to avoid hyperventilation.