By Steve Scauzillo, September 14, 2013
Now I have proof.
Driving in traffic with the windows down or
with the roadside air being sucked into the passenger cabin is bad for
your lung health.
That’s what I’ve been telling my family for years but have felt like the boy who cried wolf.
the prestigious institution south of downtown L.A., released a study
last week that measures in-vehicle exposure levels for particle
Scott Furin, the assistant professor of preventive
medicine and Neelakshi Hudda, a research associate in the environmental
health department of Keck School of Medicine, teamed up on this one.
They concluded your car’s ventilation system can be an effective tool in
stopping you from breathing in soot, diesel, carbon monoxide, oxides of
nitrogen and any of the so-called particulate pollution that can lodge
deep into your lungs and make you sick.
What they’re saying is also common sense.
When you ride in
the car, hit the recirculate button. That way, the diesel exhaust from
that 18-wheeler or the bits of carbon that fly off the millions of car
wheels don’t end up inside your car and eventually in your lungs. Inside
a car is becoming a place you don’t want to be in smoggy L.A. It’s like
a gas chamber when you add in freeway gridlock.
“Short of driving
less, putting your ventilation to ‘recirculate’ is the best way to
reduce exposure to all types of vehicle-related pollution,” Fruin said.
And then he adds this whopper: “An hour-long commute to work or school can double your daily exposure to traffic-related particulate air pollutants.”Double
your risk if you have the air conditioning sucking in air from the
outside, instead of recirculating the air inside the car.
car is old and doesn’t have a HEPA filter or a “recirculate” button, you
might want to avoid jammed freeways and take the surface streets. Side
streets with less traffic (the key words here are “less traffic”)
produce fewer pollutants, thereby lowering the risk to you of getting
lung cancer or heart disease or asthma.
Again, common sense.
These researchers hit the
nail on the head: The concentrations of particle pollutants on the L.A.
freeways are five to 10 times higher than on other roadways. All those
exhaust pipes so close together can’t be good.
If you’re not sure,
ask your mechanic about how to activate your recirculation setting on
your car. This is so important and is also an easy thing to do to
protect yourself from some of L.A.’s smog. It is more effective than
wearing a surgical mask. The USC researchers say a car seven years old
(the average age of a car on a freeway) set on recirculation settings
reduces the amount of particles inside the car from 80 percent to 20
percent. And these are the smaller particles, the ones that bypass the
human defenses. The reduction of larger particles is also great, from 70
percent to 30 percent, as compared to air ventilation settings that
suck in outside air.
Put another way, you get 70 percent to 80 percent less crud
inside your car with recirculation settings activated as compared to car
settings that bring in the outside air.
Riding the freeways with the windows down maximizes exposure to
roadside pollutants. The levels inside the car equal the levels outside
the car. Wow.
When I was doing research on another story, I stood
at a freeway entrance to the 10 Freeway to ask people questions. I was
surprised how many had their windows down on a hot day. The reason?
Their cars didn’t have working air conditioning systems.
I propose that carmakers make air conditioning systems (with
recirculation switches) mandatory. Vehicle AC or just a recirculating
air system are more than comfort features. They are safety systems like
air bags and seat belts.
These simple practices could add years to your life and your children’s lives.