Did you know? Driving can cause you cancer!

A new study published in the US-based journal Environmental Science & Technology has revealed that the air inside the cabins of modern cars is polluted with flame retardants which pose health concerns such as neurological issues, hormone disruption and cancer-related death. Foam in the interior roof lining, the seats, the electronics in the dashboards, etc are the likely sources of these cancer-inducing chemicals. 

The air flame retardant levels were found to be two to five times higher inside the vehicle during summertime. 

“Chemicals are emitted from plastics at higher rates with higher temperatures. Therefore, levels of these chemicals in the cabin air of a vehicle will be higher during warm temperatures. And people entering these cars will be breathing in this air with higher concentrations of flame retardants and receiving higher exposures,” the study says. 

These fire retardants do not stop materials from burning, rather they only slow the rate at which they burn. When they burn, the presence of flame retardant chemicals in seat foam leads to the generation of more smoke and toxic chemicals like carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. 

The study recommends frequent ventilating of the car, particularly during hot summer months to reduce the risk of exposure to the chemicals inside them. Park the car in the shade or use a sun visor to minimize the car's interior temperature during the day. Open the windows and ventilate the air before starting to drive. It is also advised to avoid the use of the recirculating air feature to maximally reduce potential exposure. 

The study is an important first step to identifying potential exposures that millions of people who drive or travel in vehicles come across daily.  Moving forward, the study aspires to inspire modernization of the regulations regarding the material requirements in vehicles and develop alternative materials which do not contain harmful compounds.

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