Rush-hour pollution study finds alarming results

Published: July 21, 2017 at 3:48 PM

Amy Wallace

July 21 (UPI) -- A new study has found the levels of some harmful pollution inside car cabins were twice the amount previously thought.

The study, published in the September issue of Atmospheric Environment, was the first to assess in-car measurements of exposure to pollutants that cause oxidative stress during rush-hour commutes.

Traffic pollution sensors are typically placed on the ground along the roadside to take continuous air samples over a 24-hour period.

Knowing that exhaust composition changes rapidly enough for drivers to experience varying conditions inside their vehicles compared to road-side sensors, researchers from Duke, Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology used sampling devices strapped into the passenger seats of cars during morning rush-hour commute times in downtown Atlanta.

The devices detected up to twice as much particulate matter as roadside sensors picked up and twice as many chemicals that cause oxidative stress and can lead to respiratory and heart disease, cancer and some neurodegenerative diseases.

Oxidative stress has been linked to Asperger's syndrome, ADHD, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, atherosclerosis, cancer, autism, sickle cell disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart attack and heart failure and depression.

"We found that people are likely getting a double whammy of exposure in terms of health during rush-hour commutes," Michael Bergin, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke, said in a news release. "If these chemicals are as bad for people as many researchers believe, then commuters should seriously be rethinking their driving habits."

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