Do you like the smell of car exhaust?
We didn’t think so…
And neither do your lungs, which can inhale multiple toxins and pathogens that are detrimental to your health from car exhaust. These fumes include: nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter (PM), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and smaller amounts of other pollutants such as sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ammonia (NH3).
Many of these substances are not just harmful to your lungs, but also affect your bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes, and your circulatory system. Some of the toxins can even cause micro-damage to your cells, which can possibly lead to cancer. However, the most common medical condition linked to the pollutants in car exhaust is asthma, affecting 25 million Americans (8% of the population).
Just as exhaust fumes are terrible for human health, they are just as bad for the planet.
An idling car will use up to half a gallon per hour; if you leave your car idling for 10 minutes every day, you will waste 20 gallons per year. At $4 per gallon, that $80 worth of gas — an equivalent to 450 pounds of avoidable greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, cars and trucks account for one-fifth of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the US, contributing to global climate change by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere—which traps outgoing heat around Earth and disrupts natural climatic cycles.
So why do so many people unnecessarily waste gasoline and leave their cars idling for long periods of time?
Contrary to popular belief, most engines do not use significantly more fuel to start—so turning your engine off while stopped for a minute or more will save gasoline. Also, modern car engines do not need to be warmed up in mild to warm temperatures—so you can start driving quickly after you start your car.
It’s simple: if you are stopped for a minute or more, turn off your engine. You never know if someone around you suffers from asthma or is sensitive to car fumes (i.e. children and the elderly). Don’t let others suffer at the expense of your “need” to run your car. Too cold or hot out? Get out of your car and move around while you wait! Our already hyper-sedentary lifestyles will benefit immensely from a few minutes of movement (and so will your pets)!
While in a city, a neighborhood, a school, or in a national park, please remember to shut your car OFF when you are not in motion—and keep the air clean for all of us!