21 March 2023
It has recently been Road Safety Week and we have been looking at how this can raise awareness for air pollution. Road Safety Week is an annual awareness week held by charity Brake, that acknowledges the importance of ensuring the roads and vehicles we use are safe, as well as remembering those who have suffered injury or death due to road accidents.
However, something else to consider after this awareness week is the danger that is not tangible or visible, which is the air pollution caused by motor vehicles.
The levels of air pollution have become excessive, making this cause the perfect opportunity to consider how we are affected by the air we breathe whilst we drive and what can be done to combat such issues.
Air pollution is a rapidly growing problem, says Dr Chunli Cao, Managing Director of Healthy Air Technology and Fellow of CIBSE, who has worked towards creating ground-breaking solutions in the sector.
With 7 million premature deaths every year resulting from exposure to air pollution, it is clear that action needs to be taken and further awareness needs to be generated around the severity of air quality, she adds.
There is more awareness around road danger and with 1.35 million deaths globally occurring from road accidents (http://bitly.ws/x5yx), and millions more suffering injuries. It is of high importance that we focus our efforts on ensuring our roads, driving conditions and vehicles are safe but we must not ignore the dangers of pollution in these efforts.
The three main pollutants that come from cars are particulate matter, carbon monoxide (with 95% of CO emissions in cities from motor vehicles), and nitrogen dioxide all are dangerous and have negative effects on our health.
Diesel pollution is also extremely hazardous to human health, with around 450 different chemicals including 40 that are listed as toxic air contaminants.
Chunli comments: When driving your children to school, or working all day as a taxi driver, can you really feel safe being exposed to so many pollutants?
Andrew Bradbury, CEO and Founder of Healthy Air System Limited with over 30 years of experience in the automotive industry, is particularly concerned about the levels of pollution in vehicles that travel in highly congested areas.
We are exposed to deadly toxins in our vehicles, like ammonia, formaldehyde, and benzene. The interior cabin area is a playground for bacteria and viruses that we cant easily escape, says Andrew.
All of these micro particles and substances cause serious harm when inhaled. Simply travelling in your vehicle or taking a trip in a taxi exposes us to many unseen and undetectable dangerous substances, he adds.
You may think that if you’re inside a vehicle, you are more protected from the emissions outside, but this is not the case, comments Chunli.
Air pollutants can in fact very quickly and aggressively collect inside a vehicle, significantly increasing the levels of pollution that you breathe. They are also circulating in a small space, meaning exposure is heightened and intensified.
Opening a window seems to be the obvious solution, but bringing in further harmful pollutants from the fumes outside is not the answer.
Pollution can cause respiratory conditions like pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma, as well as lung development issues in children and it has even been linked to lung cancer.
However, there is further evidence that shows how traffic-related pollution causes even more worrying health problems than other types of air pollution.
Drivers can suffer four times higher pollution levels than when they are at home, and they are exposed to the highest levels of pollution overall. No one is safe from air pollution, but those who work around vehicles every day are especially at risk, says Chunli.
It is important to remember that the air pollution generated by vehicles has no limits and is easily able to enter buildings, whilst also still being able to cause harm to pedestrians as well as drivers.
Tackling the problem of air pollution caused by motor vehicles can be done in different ways.
If industries work together, reducing air pollution and promoting alternative transport methods and investing in further infrastructure would help reduce the level of pollutants.
However, with years of expertise in developing solutions to fight declining air quality, Chunli understands the true benefits of addressing the problem in a more direct way.
Installing air purification units in vehicles would help reduce the levels of pollutants inside the car, cleansing the air and removing any harmful bacteria and chemicals.
This involves bacteria that can aggravate hay fever, as well as harmful particles related to Covid-19 and of course, the dangerous chemicals from the vehicle itself, says Chunli.
Companies have started to offer air purification systems in their vehicles, such as Hyundai Motor Group. With a new Smart Air Purification system that aims to provide customers with the best in-car environments, it is a step in the right direction.
Andrew adds: If one company sets an example to include air purification units in their vehicles, particularly to protect both staff and customers, then other companies are likely to follow suit.
Making the change to adopt measures that tackle air quality in our vehicles is something everyone can do, in our own cars, on public transport, and in trucks and lorries, and the long-term benefits would be significant to our health.
Healthy Air Technology also manufactures an in-car air purifier for use in vehicle cabins.
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