Most vehicle owners are aware of the visible risks in driving. It’s easy to see how reckless driving, distractions and intoxication can lead to a deadly accident. While it’s easy to avoid these obvious driving hazards, there are many hidden dangers lurking inside modern automobiles. Some chemicals and substances used in vehicle manufacture can cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia and other serious illnesses.
Modern cars aren’t manufactured in a single facility. They are built from thousands of components from many different suppliers. While a vehicle manufacturer can control the actions and practices that take place in their own facility, it may not be possible to control the actions of some suppliers. This can be extremely difficult when components are manufactured overseas. Different countries may have minimal health and safety standards when manufacturing vehicle parts. This can introduce hazardous chemicals into a vehicle. It’s possible to find trace levels of mercury, lead, arsenic, and bisphenol A in some vehicles. Mostly in older vehicles, asbestos was used in different parts of the car like brake pads, gaskets, clutch linings, etc. Exposure to asbestos and these substances can be a serious hazard for both employees building these parts and drivers.
There are several steps that vehicle owners and their families can take to minimize their exposure to these toxins. One of the best ways to reduce one’s exposure to these toxins is by buying a used vehicle. Vehicles that are at least three years old will have lower levels of gaseous toxins.
It’s also important to roll down the windows on a vehicle before taking a drive. A warm vehicle without ventilation will accumulate dangerous levels of airborne toxins. A great way to minimize this buildup is by leaving a window in a car cracked. A one-inch crack in a window will help provide adequate ventilation to keep a vehicle safe for an individual and his or her family. It’s also important to avoid leaving any children or pets in a vehicle on a warm day.
Air conditioning systems can expose passengers to high levels of airborne toxins. Many air conditioning systems have a feature that allows air to recirculate through a vehicle. While this will reduce energy usage in hot and cold weather, it will increase one’s exposure to these dangerous chemicals. A great way to minimize one’s exposure is by using the vent setting on an air conditioning system.
It’s also important to pay attention to the origin of a vehicle. Most vehicles that are assembled in the United States or Japan meet rigorous safety standards. It’s less likely that vehicles from these countries will have components that are hazardous to one’s health. Vehicles from India, China, Mexico and South America may not meet the same health and safety standards. Always research any vehicle before making a purchase decision.
Brian Turner has been working with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance as an environmental health and toxic substance safety advocate since June of 2007. Brian brings a tremendous amount of research and awareness experience in environmental health risks, environmental carcinogens, and green building expertise. Brian is very interested in all types of cars; his favorites are classic, muscle, and imports. Brian is commonly found playing and watching various sports with his friends.