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Avoid Traffic Pollution

Avoid Traffic Pollution

In the 1991 movie L.A. Story, TV meteorologist Harris Telemacher (Steve Martin) is feeling trapped in a cliché-ridden existence when his car breaks down on the side of an L.A. freeway. Suddenly, the signpost above him comes to life and inquires, “R.U.O.K.?” For most commuters, however, the roadway isn’t such a caring environment.

According to a new study, the pollution most of us are exposed to when driving in congested areas is downright dangerous. At intersections where cars start and stop and start again, pollution levels are up to 40 times higher than when you’re actually driving around town.

That’s concerning because the average American spent 50 hours in stand-still traffic last year, and a whole lot more time crawling along, packed like a sardine in a six-lane tin can! In those situations, repeated exposure to tiny bits of particulate matter in traffic-polluted air leads to chronic respiratory problems and increases your risk of cancer, wrinkles, impotence, and heart disease.

Fortunately, the study also found that when you keep car windows rolled up and air vents turned off (or on recirculate) you reduce exposure to pollution by up to 76 percent. Also smart: Drive on streets with less traffic and away from busy roadways. That eases hypertension, too!

Another tip: If you live near roadways clogged with stop-and-go traffic, keep windows and doors closed. In warm weather use your (recirculating) AC to filter the air and in the winter use HEPA-filters in central heating ducts or in-room air filters to help scrub the air.   

The Particulate Matter (PM) Air Pollution Quiz
The Particulate Matter (PM) Air Pollution Quiz
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