Danger! Smelly Cars Can Be Hazardous To Your Health.

Does your car have a certain air about it?  Ours did.

Two years ago, in the middle of a hot summer, we noticed a bad smell in our Jeep.  After cleaning out the car and checking the front grill and the undercarriage for road kill, I still couldn’t find the source of the odor.

The smell got worse as the days went by, and we had to drive with the windows down wherever we went.  We absolutely wouldn’t allow any of our friends to ride with us.

I finally found the source of the stink, a half-full plastic milk bottle from a McDonald’s Happy Meal wedged under the front seat.

Some odors in our cars, like this one, are merely unpleasant and troublesome.  Other odors may be hazardous to our health.

In the simply unpleasant category go smells from leftover fast food meals, from Rover, from the exercise clothes and towels in the gym bag in the back seat, from body odor, and from crud tracked in on our shoes, all more hazardous to our reputation and driving pleasure than to our health. 

In the equally fragrant unhealthy category are tobacco smoke, various pollutants, chemical air fresheners, and even that new car smell.

Johns Hopkins researchers measured and tested the air in smokers’ cars and found that the exposure to secondhand smoke lingers long after the smoker has put out the smoke.  Everyone who breathes secondhand smoke is endangering their health, especially young children whose lungs are smaller and more delicate.

That “new car smell” that most people find pleasant is the automotive aroma of fresh plastic, paint, acoustic insulation, wiring, glues, adhesives and sealers and upholstery.  What most people don’t realize is that the smell comes from concentrations of toxic chemicals 5 – 10 times higher than those in homes or offices.  Even older vehicles parked outside on very hot days off-gas some of these toxic smells.

The air flowing through the typical auto interior is far from pure.  It can contain gas and diesel exhaust fumes, various particles, smog, dust, pollen, and germs.  Add to that toxic vapors from the highway itself.  The EPA has identified 21 toxic chemicals in highway air.

Vehicle air quality is an important issue not just from the standpoint of driving pleasure but from a health perspective.  Many people spend hours every day in their vehicles. 

Rolling down the windows or putting the vent fan on high is no longer a viable solution to these problems except in the most pristine environment due to outside air quality.

One potential solution is to use a portable vehicle air purifier that removes odors, tobacco smoke, toxic chemicals and other pollutants from interior vehicle air while you’re driving.  There are various types available, several designed for convenient temporary mounting which plug into a vehicle’s auxiliary power port.

If you’re concerned about the toxins we all absorb from the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the products we use it’s also a good idea to periodically flush those toxins out through some method of detoxification.

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