While we raise our windows when stuck in traffic to avoid breathing those deadly chemicals from the fumes released by the vehicle’s exhaust, a recent study found that it may not be so much of help.
Researchers from the Duke University placed sensors strapped into passenger seats and make the vehicles go through morning traffic with varying speeds in and around Atlanta, USA. Researchers aim to measure the oxidative stress, which is essentially the imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to detoxify their harmful effects. For when we breathe in harmful chemicals, our cells can get hit with them and deadly reactions could happen like inflammation and DNA damage such as diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and many more.
These were measured with windows both up and down. In every case, the levels of pollution were higher than existing pollution data, which were measured outside of the car. With this, they found that such deadly chemicals can actually still get in one's car and into one's lungs through the AC.
"There are a lot of reasons an in-car air sample would find higher levels of certain kinds of air pollution," said Heidi Vreeland, an author of the study. "The chemical composition of exhaust changes very quickly, even in the space of just a few feet. And morning sun heats the roadways, which causes an updraft that brings more pollution higher into the air."
"My two cents is that this is really an urban planning failure," said co-author Roby Greenwald. "In the case of Atlanta, the poor air quality on the highways is due to the fact that 6 million people live in the metro area, and most of them have little choice but to get into an automobile to go to work or school or the store or wherever. Auto-centric transportation plans do not scale well to cities of this size, and this is one more example of how traffic negatively affects your health."
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