News ID: 167577
Published: 0230 GMT August 26, 2016

Sitting in traffic jams bad for you

Sitting in traffic jams bad for you

With millions of motorists in the UK set to hit the road for the bank holiday weekend, drivers have been urged to close windows and turn off fans while in traffic jams to avoid breathing in dangerously high levels of air pollution.

Latest research from the University of Surrey has shown that simple adjustment to your car's ventilation system while sitting in traffic jams can greatly affect your exposure to toxic fumes by up to 76 percent, according to Science Daily.

In traffic jams, or at red traffic lights with other vehicles stationary in front, research has shown that if we close the car windows and switch off the fan, this gave us the lowest exposure to pollutants. It is also safe to put fans onto the setting where they re-circulate air within the car without drawing polluted air in from outside.

In the study, scientists found that when the windows were closed but the fan was on, the exposure was usually the highest while in traffic, due to the fact that the air outside the vehicle is generally much more polluted compared with the air inside the car. Switching on the fan sucks the dirty air from outside to inside the vehicle resulting in an accumulation of pollutants in the car.

The findings also showed that when vehicles stop at red lights, they go through different driving cycles such as idling, acceleration and deceleration. At the same time, a number of other vehicles are also queued at red lights, emitting further emissions; these emissions take more time to disperse, especially in built-up areas and end up accumulating in the air at traffic lights. The problem is especially pronounced in urban cities with WHO classifying outdoor air pollution as being as carcinogenic to humans in October 2013 as smoking in February 1985.

Senior author of the research Dr. Prashant Kumar from the University of Surrey, said: "Where possible and with weather conditions allowing, it is one of the best ways to limit your exposure by keeping windows shut, fans turned off and to try and increase the distance between you and the car in front while in traffic jams or stationary at traffic lights. If the fan or heater needs to be on, the best setting would be to have the air re-circulating within the car without drawing in air from outdoors. Of course improving the efficiency of filtering systems of vehicles in future could further benefit to curtail the on-road exposure in such situations. "

   
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