A quick walk along the roads across the world exposes you to tons of exhaust pollution from vehicles. However, you may be surprised to learn that perhaps you breathe cleaner air than the people inside cars. Why? Because In-car, pollution can get worse when vehicle users are stagnant in traffic as they wait for their turn to go.
These findings are not interesting especially seeing that traffic has tremendously increased both in the US and in other parts of the world in recent years. While the average driver spends a small percentage of their days on the road, researchers have established that they can still be exposed to in-car pollutants.
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Understanding why in Car Air is of Poor Quality Compared to the outside Air
According to studies conducted to establish the quality of the air inside cars, researchers found that it is harmful and can have a negative impact on the health of vehicle users. Studies suggest that the in-car air is up to 15 times worse compared to the outside air.
Cars often obtain harmful emissions from other cars and re-circulate them. This increases the level of pollutants in the car which can cause health complications. Studies have established that a big percentage of in-car pollutants emanate from surrounding vehicles especially heavy polluters such as diesel trucks.
Since cars are not airtight, pollutants penetrate the cabin of your can via the air vents and other vehicle openings. In car toxic particles and pollutants are more compared to the outside with research suggesting the entire air quality inside of cars is more than 15 times worse than the air outside.
The concentration of pollutants along the roadside is far much less compared to the pollutant concentrations at the central part of the road. In this case, the centerline pollutant concentrations display the air penetrating inside your car.
Understanding Vehicle Exhaust
Vehicle exhaust is a combination of harmful pollutants which include:
Ozone – also know as O3, ozone is a naturally occurring compound that blocks toxic UV light from the sun. However, ozone can be toxic at ground level. As vehicles emit nitrogen oxide, it reacts with sunlight to form ground-level ozone. Apart from ozone being a basic smog component, it can irritate the lungs.
Prolonged exposure to ozone can result in deterioration of health especially in people with asthma. Further, it can destroy the lungs adversely.
Nitrogen dioxide – also known as NO2 is a strong smelling gas which can cause lung irritation, breathing problems, and increases the risk of developing respiratory related complications.
Carbon monoxide is also known as CO is an odorless, colorless, and odorless gas which can cause short term effects due to lack of oxygen such as confusion, fatigue, and dizziness.
Sulphur dioxide also known as SO2 is a dangerous gas which can cause chest pain and shortness of breath when inhaled. Prolonged exposure to SO2 can result in respiratory diseases and adverse lung damage.
Fine Particles are any fine components that range between 0.1 to 2.5 microns. When these particles are inhaled, they can enter the lung tissue and cause respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema. Exposure to fine particles has been said to increase the chances of developing cardiovascular-related complications such as heart attacks and arrhythmic heartbeats. Fine particles constitute approximately 9% of all available airborne particles.
Overly fine particles are smaller than the fine particles mentioned above. Studies indicate that a huge percentage of airborne particles are available in this size. Since overly fine particles are the most airborne particles in the environment, they are also the most dangerous for human health.
The small size of overly fine particles means they can be inhaled easily and stored in the lungs or directly soaked up to the bloodstream from where they can penetrate essential body organs such as the brain. Estimations show that the time people spent inside their vehicles on the road can expose them to more than 50% overly fine particles.
Stop Signs, Red Lights, and Intersections
According to research published in the atmospheric environment journal, where the air pollutants in and out of cars on traffic intersections in both suburban and urban areas was measured, the researchers established that:
Making stops at red lights highly increases air pollution exposure
Drivers will spend a specific percentage of their time on the road navigating through intersections. This action accounted for approximately 25% of their exposure to pollution.
Intersections, where traffic lights have been mounted, comprise of approximately 29 times high pollutant concentrations compared to open roads.
The levels of air pollution at intersections are high where there are traffic lights because drivers accelerate, idle, and decelerate on that spot. A similar result is displayed in various road sections where vehicles idle such as restaurant drive-through windows.
Heavy traffic translates to a heavy concentration of pollutants
When you are stuck in heavy traffic, the pollution inside your vehicle will be approximately 40% higher than when you are on moving traffic. Studies published in the environments science journal, impacts and processes established that in-car pollution was up to seven times higher when stuck in traffic with the car windows open which is more than what pedestrians standing along the major intersections are exposed to.
In car pollution increases when you decide to turn on the fan. Remember, turning on the fan can increase the number of pollutants entering your car especially if your car windows are open.
Minimizing In-Car Air Pollution
Technological advancements have revolutionized the way people do things. Further, modernization has created an opportunity for manufacturers to develop effective products to help reduce the amount of pollution in your car.
Vehicle owners are also becoming more health conscious and are on the lookout for different ways of ensuring that the air they breath in the can is safe enough for them to avoid health complications. Here are various methods you can put into practice in order to reduce in-car solution.
Make use of a robust car purifier. While some vehicles come with inbuilt air conditioners, they may not clean the air inside your car appropriately. You can improve the air inside your car by choosing a more powerful air purifier specially designed for use in the car’s interior. There are numerous air purifiers in the market today and choosing the ideal one can be an arduous task.
Conduct extensive research prior to purchasing an air purifier for your car. Establish the effectiveness of the gadget and its capabilities to ensure that it meets your needs and budget. The ideal in-car air purifier should be versatile and portable. You should be able to use it either in your house or home as well when you are not traveling.
Always keep a distance from vehicles. Whenever you are on the road, don’t get too close to vehicles ahead of you especially diesel trucks. Maintain closed car windows and ensure that your air purifier is functioning appropriately. Whenever possible, use less congested roads with minimal traffic lights. These may delay you but you will be more protected from airborne pollutants.
Avoid over-reliance on ordinary air filtration systems for your car. These may not be adequately effective in eliminating volatile organic compounds, particulates, carbon monoxide, and other airborne pollutants. Further, they are not designed to filter the air penetrating through the cabin of your car through door cracks and windows.
While car deodorizers and air fresheners come with a sweet scent, they may contain high levels of harmful volatile organic compounds which worsens the quality of the air inside your car.
Practice maximum cleanliness inside your car. Dust particles mix with airborne pollutants in your car and get inhaled. Many car owners use chemical-based cleaners for cleaning their cars which can increase the level of pollutants in your car. Experts recommend the use of a microfiber rag as opposed to chemical cleaners.
Cars are important and they facilitate travel making movement from one place to the other easier. However, car users should adopt effective methods of minimizing pollutants inside their cars. The above steps can come in handy to help car owners reduce pollutant exposure in the car by almost 50%.
Many people are less concerned when it comes to improving the quality of their car air. Studies suggest that the average person will spend approximately 5% of their time inside their cars. This exposes them to airborne pollutants which can cause adverse effects to their health. What then can you do to eliminate poor quality air from your car?
Technology has advanced and today you can use air purifiers to improve the quality of the air inside your car. While many of these gadgets are effective, some of them are not designed to be as effective as the air purifiers you have in your office or home. Still, there are good quality air purifiers for your car which are quite powerful.
Understanding the Quality of You In Car Air
Many people associate airborne pollution with pollen, smog, and dust. The quality of indoor air deteriorates during the cold and hot weather during which allergens and dust accumulate inside business premises and houses which are secured to protect residents against the elements.
In car pollution as well is a matter of growing concern which has led to the increased demand for in-car air purifiers. It’s important to understand that a huge percentage of the allergens and pollutants found outdoors can penetrate inside your car and become more harmful than they are outdoors. This combined with the particulates and chemicals from the car means that you should make efforts to filter the air in your car to make it clean for you and your passengers.
According to a study conducted by the NIH (National Institute of Health) experts established that aromatic hydrocarbons from different interior components and harmful particulates from brakes could cause adverse health problems. While opening your car window can let in fresh air, it also allows in more pollutants to penetrate inside your car.
An additional air quality problem that car owners struggle with is the constant odor from different sources while in traffic. Ionizers and purifiers may not be robust enough to eliminate such problems. However, as technology advances, researchers have invented more effective air purifiers, ozone generators, and adsorbents which can help you improve the quality of air in your car.
Types of Car Ionizers, Purifiers, and Air Filters
Today, the market is afloat with a wide variety of air purifiers, and filters that you can choose for your car as seen below.
Engine Air Filters
Engine air filters are designed to filter the air that penetrates through your engine for combustion purposes. These gadgets can’t improve the quality of air in the passenger compartment. Engine air filters utilize a filtration method which is a special cloth or paper to confine debris and particles in order to bar them from penetrating to the intake system of your engine.
Air ionizers are electronic gadgets which you can plug in the cigarette lighter socket in your car. They are designed to ionize pollutants and trigger them to stick in specific areas making it hard for the car users to inhale them.
Cabin Air Filters
Cabin air filters are designed to filter the air that gets into your car when the air conditioning, ventilation, and heating system in your car is activated to let in fresh air. These gadgets can also filter recirculated air. Cabin air filters play an important role in maintaining an odor and allergen-free environment around the passenger compartment.
While older vehicles draw fresh air from unclosed exterior vents, modern vehicles utilize cabin air filters to confine debris and particles. There are various types of cabin air filters that can help you minimize harmful odor and allergens from your car. They are:
- Activated carbon-impregnated filtration concept cabin air filters which are ideal for eradicating odor.
- HEPA cabin air filters which utilize an ultra fine mesh which can confine large harmful particles such as small particles and pet dander.
Ozone generators are designed to produce ozone which is effective when it comes to damaging the molecular formation of bad odor and pollutants.
Cabin air filters in many vehicles are still in use even when drivers activate the Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to re-circulate. This activation prevents new air from penetrating to the car and re-circulates the available air in the cabin and prevents new harmful pollutants from entering the car in the process of filtering the pollutants already in the car.
Cabin air filters are more effective compared to ionizers. However, they require regular replacement. Some older generation vehicles don’t come with cabin air filters while those that still have them are placed in inappropriate areas making it hard for them to filter air when it re-circulates in the car’s cabin.
If your car came with a cabin air filter that is designed and placed in the ideal location to facilitate filtration of re-circulated air, have a new carbon impregnated filter or high-efficiency particulate air(HEPA) installed to effectively improve the quality of your in-car air.
Are Car Ionizers Effective?
Air ionizers designed for use in vehicles are compact components that users can plug in the cigarette lighter socket directly. Rather than filtering the air, these gadgets release ions which are molecules with either negative or positive charge as opposed to the ordinary neutral charge.
The fundamental concept behind car ionizers is that the ionized particles of different odorous materials and allergens will either stick on each other or on surfaces hence stopping them from floating in the air. While a favorable air ionizer should discharge its tasks effectively, it may not have filtering capabilities. This can expose you and your passengers to pollen, dust, and other harmful pollutants available in your car.
Many of the weak and sometimes tiny ionizers which are plugged on the cigarette lighter socket are not effective when it comes to filtering the air inside your car.
Can an Ozone Generator help Eliminate Smelly Cars?
Just like ionizers, ozone generators are not designed to filter the air. Instead, they produce ozone which mixes with different odor-producing chemical components and eliminates the odor. These gadgets can, therefore, work well when you want to eliminate bad odor from your car.
Huge ozone generators often found at independent repair shops and dealerships can produce colossal amounts of ozone and are capable of eliminating lots of odor. They, however, may not be ideal for use in the car since they are too big. Overexposure to ozone can cause adverse health problems. Using ozone generators in your car constantly, therefore, may not be a good idea.
Car Purifier and Air Freshener Limitations
Every car purifier and air freshener presents various limitations. The perfect way of managing car odor is to prevent it in the first place. If you are already experiencing odor inside your car, you can find out from the available independent shops or even your dealer whether they can provide ozone treatment for your car. Various substances such as baking soda, activated carbon, and pumice stones can absorb bad odors. Try them before using any chemical based solution.
There are various types of car purifiers and air fresheners which are designed to eliminate odors even though they only disguise mild odors from food and smoke rather than eliminating them. If your main worry is dealing with allergens, purchase a robust cabin air filter or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cabin air filter complete with an adequately constrictive concept.
While cabin air filters are incapable of improving the quality of your in-car air, they can prevent the introduction of new allergens in your car. Your passenger compartment is usually not an enclosed environment which means that the circulation of pollutant and allergen-free air will overpower the polluted air.
Purifying your In-Car Air Using Ecological Methods
You can reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds in your vehicle and improve the inside air by:
Aerating at the Appropriate Time
Avoid opening the windows of your car. Whenever possible, shut out the supply of outside air when you are in a confined area such as an underground parking area or a tunnel or when you are driving behind a polluting car or stuck in traffic. You can aerate your car whenever you are out of the aforementioned circumstances.
Use Air Fresheners in Moderation
Whenever possible, avoid using air fresheners. If you have to, then use them in moderation. While many people opine that interior fragrances can help improve the quality of air in their cars, they can be the source of harmful particles. The composition of air fresheners disguises bad odor while increasing formaldehyde concentration in your car. Air fresheners come with a sweet scent that you may want inside your car. However, using them introduces volatile organic compounds in your car. Before using your car, ensure that it is well aerated and clean your car seat fabrics and carpets on a regular basis.
Avoid Smoking inside the Car
Many car owners opine that smoking in the car is safe so long as the windows are open. This is far from the truth since tobacco is a big source of indoor pollution. The particles released from tobacco can remain in the car even when windows are open. Don’t smoke inside your car if you intend to maintain good quality air in your car.
Have an in Car Air Purifier
Purchase an air purifier that’s specially designed for the car. You can choose one that has activated carbon complete with adsorption capability. This air purifier can trap volatile organic compounds. Ensure your ideal air purifier has acetoacetamide, an active organic substance that restricts formaldehyde. Where possible, clean your surfaces using natural products.
Many household and car cleaning products available in shops comprise of chemicals which disperse during use. These compounds lower the quality of air and can be harmful to your health when inhaled especially in a confined area such as a car. Always analyze your products and check their composition before using them to clean your car. Further, choose a powerful air purifier specially designed for use in cars to improve the quality of the air inside your car.