People are exposed to harmful air pollutants not only when they are outside, but also when they are driving. These environmental factors, such as vehicle emissions, affect car safety and can lead to car accidents. Researchers from the University of California provide some tips on filtering the air inside your car and staying safe.
Car Cabin Pollutants
Carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide are two common hazardous gases emitted from vehicles. Drivers are often exposed to these gases because cabin air filters generally do not filter such small, sub-micrometer particles. Those who drive diesel trucks, drive for work, drive in heavy stop-and-go traffic, or drive in large, congested areas are at a heightened risk of exposure. The longer the commute, the greater the exposure due to the accumulation of hazardous particulate matter and gases.
Effects of Air Pollutants on Driver Safety
Symptoms of carbon dioxide poisoning include drowsiness, headache, blurred vision, shortness of breath, flushing of the skin, rapid breathing, nausea, convulsions, and loss of consciousness. Drivers who are exposed to air pollutants such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, may therefore become drowsy or experience adverse health effects, which can lead to car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 795 people were killed in drowsy driving-related crashes in 2017.
Trucks and buses emit higher levels of environmental pollutants, exposing both the drivers of such vehicles, as well as others on the road to toxins from diesel fuel. Such small particulate matter may be inhaled, carried through the bloodstream and passed on to the heart and brain. Exposure to respirable particulate matter may cause an asthma or heart attack, in addition to other long-term health effects.
Reduce Air Pollution Inside Your Car
To reduce the amount of particulate matter, University of California researchers suggest keeping the windows closed and choosing the recirculation setting. However, choosing this ventilation system setting increases carbon dioxide exposure, therefore drivers should limit its use to when particularly polluted road conditions are present. Cars are generally not equipped to reduce carbon dioxide; however, researchers point to fractional air circulation to minimize carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide.
Manufacturers have not yet incorporated fractional air recirculation into car models, but drivers can implement the method themselves by adjusting their recirculation and fan speeds according to road conditions. Researchers suggest that drivers choose recirculation mode and the lowest fan speed when polluted road conditions exist. This mode should only be kept on for a few minutes to avoid hazardous accumulation of carbon dioxide. If keeping the recirculation mode on for more than a few minutes, drivers should increase ventilation fan speed to the highest setting to allow for more ventilation.
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