Did you know sitting behind the wheel of your car could make you feel sick or even depressed? You may have heard of sick building syndrome – when airborne pollutants in your home or workplace trigger unpleasant symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, and nausea – but what about sick car syndrome?
Your car’s interior includes more than 275 different chemicals, many of which emit dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemicals make your car’s interior a source of highly concentrated airborne pollution that can threaten your health.
Many people have no reaction when exposed to brominated flame retardants (BFRs) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). However, BFR is linked to memory impairment, thyroid challenges, and fertility problems, while PVC can compromise the function of your liver, kidney, and reproductive organs.
Don’t let your time behind the wheel endanger your health! Use these tips to reduce pollutants in your car so you can breathe easier.
Use an Air Purifier
A car air purifier is not the same as an air freshener. In fact, that little pine-scented air freshener dangling from your rearview mirror only introduces more chemical perfumes to the air.
Instead of masking odors, an air purifier cleans the air in your car by using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter that traps microscopic bacteria and odors. The purifier fits into the cabin air filtration system located behind the dashboard. If your car doesn’t come with a built-in HEPA filter, you can purchase an aftermarket version. Just remember to change the filter every 15,000 miles so it doesn’t become overly clogged with dust.
Keep the Car Clean
A car with a clean interior also has cleaner air. Just be sure to avoid chemical cleaners to prevent introducing more VOCs. Many times, a damp microfiber cloth is all you need to wipe the dashboard clean, and a steam gun works wonders on dirt deeply embedded in the seats and carpeting.
Open Your Car’s Air Vents
If you always keep the air vents closed, mold and bacteria could grow within the air system. Then, when you finally do open the vents, mold spores and germs circulate into the cabin. These can be just as harmful as chemicals.
To prevent mold and bacteria, open your car’s vents often. Also, remember to turn on the car’s heater for at least a few seconds every couple of weeks, even in the summer. This simple task discourages bacterial growth in the heater.
Roll Down the Windows
Even though outdoor air pollution is a real concern, the pollutants in your car can be up to 10 times higher than outside. This means rolling down your windows is an effective way to clear the air – unless you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic. In this case, the extra fumes cars emit when stopping and starting are unhealthier than the pollution in your car, so you should keep your windows rolled up and hit the recirculation button until the traffic clears.
Keep Your Distance
The exhaust from a car’s tailpipe is dangerous to breathe in high concentrations, which is why you should never leave your car idling in the garage. But did you know that even following the car ahead of you too closely could increase your exposure to tailpipe fumes? Even with your vents closed, some degree of these noxious fumes can enter the cabin. For this reason, keeping your distance isn’t just good for roadway safety – it also helps you reduce the pollutants in your car.
Buy a Used Car
Like most people, you probably love that new-car smell. Unfortunately, this smell comes from off-gassing VOCs from new plastics, glues, and upholstery, many of which are respiratory irritants and carcinogens.
Most VOC off-gassing occurs in the first few months of a car’s life. To limit your exposure, you should consider buying a used car. Even if it’s less than a year old, a used car interior is much safer and less polluted than a new one. Plus, buying a used car offers tremendous savings because vehicles depreciate so quickly.
Let Scott’s Fort Collins Auto Change Your Cabin Air Filter
At Scott’s Auto, we recognize the importance of clean car air. We stick with the recommended schedule of changing the cabin air filter every 15,000 miles. At your request, we can install a HEPA filter to keep your car’s interior extra fresh and clean. Schedule an appointment online or call us at 970-682-4202 the next time your car needs work, and we’ll gladly change your air filter as well!