Most people are aware that cars emit harmful gases and are major contributors to air pollution, which affects the environment and people’s health, as well. But, apart from the CO2 that comes out of cars’ exhaust systems, that is released into the atmosphere, there are hazards inside your car, as well. You might think that your car’s cabin protects you from exhaust fumes, but you are actually exposed to pollution even when you are seated inside your car. In addition to the harmful gases, car interior materials are another factor that poses a threat to your health.
One of the threats inside your car is caused by interior materials used for covering a car’s dashboard, steering wheel or seats, that release small amounts of chemicals, which are toxic and can result in serious health problems over time.
According to Jeff Gearhart of the Ecology Center, a non-profit organization based in Michigan, gases are released inside your car when those chemicals get mixed with the airborne pollution that is generated under the hood. He goes on to say that due to high temperatures on hot summer days, the concentration of Volatile Organic Compounds inside cars is increased, and car occupants get exposed to some pretty toxic chemicals, such as bromine, chlorine, and lead. Gearhart says that these chemicals are not regulated, and people don’t know that they their health is at risk.
The effects of exhaust fumes can be felt inside your car, as well. According to a research that the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) conducted recently, the concentrations of carbon monoxide inside the car can be as much as 10 times higher than outdoors. This is an astonishing finding, which should help raise consumers’ awareness of the health hazards that are present in their cars. Carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and nausea. This in-car pollution can be extremely dangerous, the ICTA says, since the average American spends an hour and a half in their cars each day.
However, levels of indoor pollution are not the same in all cars. There are some cars that provide better protection against these hazards. The Ecology Center collected windshield film and dust from cars manufactured between 2000 and 2005, produced by 11 of the world’s biggest car makers, including BMW, Ford, Honda, GM, Chrysler and Volvo, among others. They found that vehicles made by Volvo had the lowest pollution levels, and provided the best interior air quality.
As far as what you can do to reduce the risk of being exposed to pollution inside your car, there are a couple of tips that the University of South California (USC) recently provided. The University advises people to put their ventilation to “recirculate”, which it claims helps reduce exposure to particulate pollution. Other measures that you can take, until car makers stop using these toxic chemicals, which would be the best solution, include keeping your windows closed while driving, and avoid keeping your car parked in the sun for longer periods of time.
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