Having a commute to work is a common thing for many Americans. The average person makes a 26 and a half minute commute to and from work each day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. These commutes can involve traffic jams and construction, which can affect your health. Being stuck in heavy traffic exposes you to an increased amount of air pollutants that have been linked to medical issues relating to the lungs and heart.
But, did you know that your car’s air conditioning (AC) unit can actually decrease the air pollution that gets into your car?
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis studied in-car air pollution with real-life commutes someone could experience in a typical day. Using portable sensors and instruments, they monitored and measured pollutant levels of the air in the car’s cabin and the air outside of the car.
What they found was that using the AC unit reduced pollutants inside the car by 20 to 30 percent (the percentage varies depending on weather conditions, outdoor concentrations and roadwork).
So, how does it work? Your AC unit pulls air from the outside and uses its cold evaporator to filter out the pollutants. The cold surface of the evaporator attracts the pollutant particles and prevents them from diffusing into your car.
Along with running the AC, the researchers suggest that you should also keep your windows closed. Keeping them closed offers more protection from pollutants anywhere from eight to 44 percent. But, you aren’t totally safe from the pollution. It’s worth noting that the particles coming from buses and trucks change the degree of pollution outside.
For example, your windows can be closed and you can have the AC on high, but if you’re behind a bus in traffic, the particle concentration can be three times higher outside of your vehicle. Particles will still make their way inside the car, and experts say to open the windows to let the lingering particles out once your trip is done.
Knowing the science behind car pollution can be interesting, but it’s not something to take lightly. Pollution, especially from vehicles, can expose you to dangerous medical issues. Every day, Americans are being exposed to these pollutants during their daily commute.
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