Your car can be a source of great joy and pride, but it also has the ability to literally make you sick.
Many people are familiar with sick building syndrome. It’s a condition in which airborne contaminants in a building lead to certain illnesses and conditions, and it can trigger a host of symptoms, from headaches to nausea to fatigue.
As with a building, your car may be a source of airborne pollutants, and this can lead to a condition known as sick car syndrome. Symptoms range from fatigue to depression, and it’s all caused by breathing polluted air while behind the wheel of your vehicle.
The World Health Organization has recognized this problem and has reported that interior pollution of vehicles represents a significant threat to human health. It makes sense when you understand just how many chemicals are present within the average car’s interior. More than 275 different chemicals are used to assemble your vehicle’s cabin.
For example, your car’s plastics are made less flammable with brominated flame retardants (BFRs), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is used in making its windshields. BFR exposure has been linked with memory impairment, reduced fertility and thyroid challenges. PVCs have been shown to compromise the functioning of the liver, testes, ovaries and kidneys.
Some people handle this toxic burden with no symptoms or complications, but some aren’t so lucky. Here are six tips for reducing air pollution within your car’s cabin:
1. Get an Air Purifier: Car air purifiers clean the air by using filters that attract micro particles, bacteria and odors. Some cars offer air filters on their list of options. Tesla, for example, makes its models available with an advanced air filtration system, and the manufacturer claims this system is powerful enough to neutralize even highly toxic bioweapons.
If your car doesn’t offer air filtration, such as a cabin air filter, you can purchase an aftermarket air purifier, and there are several capable choices to consider. Once you’ve made your purchase. remember that maintenance is important. You air purifier won’t work as well as it should if it is clogged or dusty, so it’s important to regularly change the filter.
2. Keep It Clean: A clean cabin minimizes interior air pollution. If dust is allowed to accumulate in your car’s cabin, it can become contaminated with the stew of chemical compounds present within your vehicle. If these compounds affix themselves to dust, it makes it easier for them to find their way into your body and compromise your health.
Avoid chemical cleaners, as these can do more harm than good when it comes to your health. Instead, tackle your cleaning with a damp microfiber cloth or a steam gun.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Vent: If your car’s air vents are always closed, this can cause mold and bacteria to gather in the air system. Mold can be just as toxic as chemicals, so this is a situation you want to avoid. Open your vents and activate your car’s heating system every couple of weeks or so to discourage bacterial growth.
4. Let The Outside In (But Not In Stop-And-Go Traffic): Letting in some fresh air is a simple and effective way to boost air quality within your car’s cabin. This might sound counterintuitive, as outdoor air pollution is a real concern. Still, studies have shown air pollution within your car can be up to 10 times greater than pollution outdoors. One study conducted by the International Center for Technology Assessment concluded carbon monoxide levels can be higher within your car’s cabin than they are on the roadside.
Rolling down your windows will help. According to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health, opening your windows and utilizing your car’s fan can create air circulation that will have a favorable impact on pollution levels within your car’s interior.
The exception here is situations involving stop-and-go traffic. In these circumstances, outdoor air pollution can be very high, so your best bet is to keep your windows rolled up, and hit the recirculate button.
5. Maintain A Safe Distance: Scientists have known for quite some time now that tailpipe exhaust from cars and trucks has been linked to heart disease, cancer and a host of respiratory ailments. Recent studies have shown these fumes can also have a damaging effect on mental capacity and emotional stability. If you travel too closely to the vehicle in front of you, noxious traffic fumes could enter your car’s cabin. This can occur even if your vents are closed. To preserve air quality within your car’s cabin, endeavor to drive three car lengths back from the vehicle in front of you.
6. Buy A Used Car: That new-car smell people like to romanticize is actually the result of off-gassing from the vehicle’s plastics, seating materials and glues, and it contains respiratory irritants and carcinogens that won’t do your health any favors. With new cars, the worst and most dangerous off-gassing occurs in the first months after purchase.
If you want to limit your exposure, a used car is an excellent solution. These cars have already done most of their off-gassing, so they’ll provide a safer and less polluted environment. As an added benefit, used cars also offer tremendous cost savings, since vehicles depreciate by as much as 19 percent after just one year of ownership. Used cars are available in our listings across all price ranges and vehicle categories.
Every choice you make has consequences. Millions of people in this country develop frightening illnesses each year, and many don’t understand the link between their environment and their health.
Reducing air pollution in your car can be a fairly straightforward endeavor. This step can serve as a useful tool in your efforts to maintain or improve your health.