The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
With each summer getting hotter than the previous one, it is now common to see people use their vehicles as air conditioned refuges, or to go shop or do errands in order to return to a cool car. Because we can’t see exhaust, we can forget what it actually is and what it can do to us and the people that unsuspectingly breathe it in close by idling vehicles.
It’s understandable keeping your car and its air conditioning running for a short time if you have elderly people, small children and/or pets inside, but the problem is that it can be near people outside who can get sick from the exhaust.
According to World Health Organization, air pollution is the world’s largest preventable health risk. Air pollution kills approximately 7 million people each year due to the exposure of fine particles, carcinogenic (causes cancer) chemicals and toxic gases. These poisons get into the lungs and blood stream, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory infections, asthma and pneumonia.
Also, car exhaust contains carbon dioxide, toxic gases like carbon monoxide, benzene, carcinogenic nitrous oxide, un-burned gasoline, soot, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and formaldehyde. Even fine particles get into our lungs from tire and brake ware.
In addition, according to the 2012 documentary film, “Idle Threat,” idling engines consume approximately 6 billion gallons of gasoline and cost $20 billion dollars in the United States, not to mention the cost of foreign wars for oil and climate change.
Another reason people leave their engines running is to save fuel by not turning your car on and off for short stops. According to a 2004 study by Society of Automotive Engineers, it only takes seven seconds before you use more fuel to keep the engine idling for a 1.5-liter engine. In other words, you will save more fuel by turning it off if you think you will be idling longer than 7 seconds.
Here are some other suggestions to decrease our exposure to car exhaust:
• If you have to keep your car idling at the store, park or outdoor cafe, park on the far end of the lot where people won’t have to walk through the exhaust cloud.
• Use a wind shield sun shade to keep the interior cool.
• If you are a business owner, post signage to encourage people to turn their engines off.
• Plant shade trees and shrubs for parking spaces that will clean dirty air, provide oxygen and provide a barrier against exhaust.