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How to Avoid Vehicle Pollution When You’re Stuck in Traffic

TIME article about ways to avoid vehicle pollution while driving featured Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health sciences and associate dean for academic programs at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Most non-electric motor vehicles emit multiple airborne pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbons, and ultrafine chemical particles. Breathing in these pollutants can cause or contribute to a wide range of health problems, from heart and lung disease to neurological, reproductive and immune system dysfunction.

Studies have repeatedly found that people who live near busy roadways are at elevated risks for these health issues. Young children, the elderly, and people with lung disease are especially vulnerable to vehicle-emitted pollution. But anyone who spends a lot of time commuting and sitting in heavy traffic—especially on hot, sunny days, when heat and sunlight speed up the chemical reactions that produce ozone and other airborne pollutants—faces a heightened risk for air-pollution-related illness.

These filters are available online and in auto parts stores, and installation is usually easy. (Search for terms like “cabin air filter,” along with “charcoal” or “activated carbon.” Just be sure you’re choosing the right model for your car.) But finding a good one can be tricky. “Unlike HVAC filters for indoor environments, car cabin filters don’t have ratings to show consumers which ones are really effective,” says Yifang Zhu, a professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Zhu is referring to high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) and minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) designations, which are regulated standards that make clear an indoor air filter’s ability to clean pollutants in a home or office.

Read the article on TIME's website