“We know that traffic generates a lot of pollution, and therefore it’s the time when you’re traveling in traffic that you can have a disproportionately high amount of your daily exposure to many harmful pollutants,” explains co-author Anna Leavey, a research scientist at the university’s engineering school, in news release. “What we wanted to see was: When and where are our highest exposures occurring, and how should one be driving to mitigate the risk?”
“As aerosol scientists, we had access to state-of-the-art air monitoring equipment,” says co-author Nathan Reed.
“The vehicle cabin can be viewed as a buffer, protecting us from the outside air,” says Leavey. “While driving with your air conditioning on and windows closed is the most protective thing that you can do, running the AC can decrease your fuel economy.”
Leavey suggests keeping the AC on and windows shut when on the highway or if you’re stuck behind larger vehicles that expel more pollutants.
“Once you have left the polluted environment, we recommend opening your windows to remove any pollutant build-up from your car,” she says.
This study’s findings were published in October in the journal Atmospheric Environment.
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