Ask Dr. Nandi: How sitting in traffic jams can harm your health

Posted at 5:47 PM, Aug 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-29 17:47:30-04

A new study reveals pollution at intersections and traffic jams have higher levels of pollution than on the open road. 

Why is pollution higher at intersections?
This new study out of the United Kingdom found pollution is 29 times higher at intersections than on the open road. And cars sitting at red lights or in traffic jams had up to 40% more pollution inside than cars that were moving.  That’s because in these situations, cars are closer together.  They slow down, stop and rev their engines to move forward. This leads to higher levels of particle concentration that lingers and accumulates.

What are the health risks associated with indoor air pollution?
Exposure to particulate matter in the air is the eighth leading cause of death here in the United States.  Air pollution contributes to fatal diseases like lung cancer, asthma and other respiratory disease.  It’s also been linked to heart disease and stroke.

What are your prescriptions?
To reduce the amount of pollution you’re exposed to while stuck in traffic or at busy intersections, here are my prescriptions:

Partha’s RX for reducing pollution in cars

1. Keep Your Car Windows Closed
This will help reduce the amount of pollution your exposed to.

2. Switch off the Fan
This can reduce the chance of breathing in hazardous levels of air pollution by 76 percent.

3. If You Need the Fan on, Have It Circulate the Air Internally
This prevents pollution from entering.

4. Try to Avoid Busy Intersections or Rush Hour Traffic if possible. 
If you can’t, increasing the distance between you and the car in front will also help.

What is the average air quality in Detroit?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, last year Detroit, Warren and Dearborn had 147 good days, 198 moderate days, 19 unhealthy days for Sensitive Groups (like the young or old and those with lung cancer).  And we had 1 unhealthy day.   When we have unhealthy days, everyone may experience some kind of adverse health effects.